Putting Your Knowledge Into Action: A Rehab Worker’s Thoughts on the Importance of Compassion and Lived-Experience

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Article 5 of 15 in Series: Perspectives on Work, Worth and Faith


I originally met Libby through a friend over WhatsApp. She described her as a down-to-earth and kind hearted woman. After knowing Libby for just under 5 years, I’ve learned this to be true. 

Since our introduction, she’s helped me through prenatal appointments and my son’s speech delays. She’s introduced me to issues I had very little knowledge about and has always been open to discussions about history and current events. She has a habit for partnering her wealth of knowledge with care for others.

CHRIS-ANN: What kind of work do you do?

LIBBY: I’m a Rehab Worker. I work with adults who have acquired brain injury through strokes, accidents and other events of this nature. I’m part of an independent living program, so we work where they live. My goal is to help them become more independent by assisting them with different things. It looks different for each client; some need help with medical appointments, walking or regaining practical skills (like cooking) or other combination of needs. 

CHRIS-ANN: Tell me about your journey in becoming a Rehab Worker?

LIBBY: It was initially frustrating to find something directly in my field so I decided to broaden my horizons and apply for jobs in the wider industry in order to get experience. My ideal would be working in Speech Therapy or Communication. I did a graduate Communicative Disorder Assistant Program. When I took this opportunity, I knew it was for the purpose of growth.

It’s also been an eye opener. I’ve been learning a lot about how the social service system works. Having to assist my clients with certain services, and seeing the delays because of human error has been frustrating. I have a better understanding of how frustrating it is for them to deal with these things on their own.

CHRIS-ANN: When you think of work generally, and your work specifically what comes to mind?

LIBBY: I’ve always thought of work as putting your knowledge and all that you’ve learned into action, whether paid or unpaid. I also want to have children one day, so I see work as a way of providing for their futures financially as well.

When I think specifically of my work, I feel like I’m contributing to making a difference for my clients and their families. Hebrews 13:16 says doing good and sharing with others are sacrifices that are pleasing to God. I along with my team members are providing services that aim to improve the well-being (some physical but mostly mental/emotional) of our clients. I also try to remember to not only focus on the act of providing service (eg. cooking), but ask myself if I am providing good service? Am I engaging in conversation with my clients, asking them how they are doing, or am I trying to rush the interaction so I can leave their apartment and move on to the next task? And so on.

The latter part of the verse reminds me that all I’m doing is to ultimately please God. I’m showing gratitude to him for blessing me with this job by working well and helping clients in a way that improves their lives. 

CHRIS-ANN: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from or about your clients? 

LIBBY: It’s been interesting to hear and see how their lives have changed as a result of acquiring the disabilities. For instance, one of our clients was studying in the medical field in university before she had a stroke. She had to drop out. Others experienced job loss. Others had divorces, or breakups ultimately because of the disability and the stress it puts on relationships. Some spouses are still present and supportive and that’s encouraging.

I also know that some people believe these individuals don’t serve any purpose because they can’t work, see them as a drain on the system and have treated them as such. I’ve seen it. They themselves are very aware of how people treat and perceive them.

I also know that some people believe these individuals don’t serve any purpose because they can’t work, see them as a drain on the system and have treated them as such. I’ve seen it. They themselves are very aware of how people treat and perceive them. I’ll give you a couple quick examples.

I see the differences in how my clients with visible and less visible disabilities are treated as they navigate their surroundings. There are some clients whose disabilities you wouldn’t realize until you personally work with them. They are, more or less able to navigate their surroundings without discrimination. 

For my clients with visible disabilities, like speech or mobility issues, on the one hand, people have been kind. Some are afraid to look like jerks. On the other hand, I’ve seen others stare at them in pity or treat them like they’re dumb. It’s disheartening to see people’s lack of patience.

There was an instance last year where a driver (for a disability-designated service) was extremely rude to our clients. We asked them if they noticed. They did. We called customer service to complain. They’re completely aware of how people treat them, they’re not idiots.

If you want to interact with or work specifically with people with disabilities, you need to be patient, open-minded and understanding. It’s important to educate yourself. If it’s something that makes you nervous, fearful or you’re not sure where to start, you can learn more by volunteering or even watching a few youtube channels by people with disabilities. The goal is to gain lived-experience.

You will also have to check your frustration multiple times. They may not be able to do the same things as you and that might be something you take for granted. They didn’t ask for this and I know that many of them feel like they’ve lost a part of their freedom.

It’s one thing to be in university and learn about people and theories in class. It’s different when you work with them face-to-face.

It’s one thing to be in university and learn about people and theories in class. It’s different when you work with them face-to-face. Working with them personally reminds you that you are not in control of your life. Something can happen. You could be in the same position.


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