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A leadership journey in hand therapy

Zoë Miles discovered her passion for occupational therapy early on after seeing the positive impact it had on a family member who was attending a Special Education Needs School. Now working as a Hand Therapist at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Zoë and her team rehabilitate patients with any issues or injuries at the level of the wrist or below

Zoe MilesAs part of an ongoing MSc in Leadership in Health and Social Care at the University of Derby, Zoë is researching postoperative rehabilitation for base of thumb osteoarthritis, a condition that’s found commonly in the elderly. In the hands, it can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced grip. Following surgery, which is offered to some patients, forms of postoperative rehabilitation are varied. In fact, Zoë has found that there is little consensus on how to make sure patients have the best outcomes.

“After a trapeziectomy for osteoarthritis, many patients will find themselves in a cast for two weeks, moving to a long thermoplastic splint or a short splint,” explains Zoë, who received an OAHP Research Development Award to undertake the research methods and research modules of her course. “Some NHS patients will go straight into a splint, rather than a cast, while others will be given a soft neoprene splint, which is far more comfortable. Our patients could be in a cast for several weeks, and we’ll see them every week or every two weeks.’

“In the Trust we follow a standard protocol for managing our patients, yet across England different Trusts offer different forms of therapy. There’s no consensus in the research on the optimal way to manage trapeziectomy post-operatively, so that’s what I’m hoping to find out.”

Zoë’s planned project could involve a Delphi study to explore how other UK-based hand therapy units handle patient rehabilitation, with a view to using the insights to develop a revised treatment protocol. She hopes her work could pave the way for follow-up research to trial a better form of rehabilitation, so patients have better outcomes and an improved experience.

Alongside the MSc, Zoë has recently achieved British Association of Hand Therapists Level 3, making her eligible to apply for Certified Hand Therapist Status. Zoë hopes the additional training will support her continued career progression and she has recently opted to undertake a leadership module on the MSc programme. As well as helping to develop her evidence-based practice, one of Zoë’s goals is to support others to develop their own research and management skills.

“I might look at doing further research within my current role, I might do more teaching, because I really enjoy it. At the end of the day, I want to be fulfilled in my job and I don’t know where this training will take me, but I’m really looking forward to the journey!”