Burns Occupational Therapy —providing burn rehabilitation to remote Indigenous patients in the Top End.

Mrs Jennifer O’Neill1

1Royal Darwin Hospital, Tiwi, Australia


The Royal Darwin Hospital Burns Unit has been committed to providing burn treatment and education across the Top End since its formation after the Bali Bombings in 2002. The Burns Unit caters to adult and paediatric inpatients and outpatients with minor to major burn injuries, and supports patients through their recovery from acute treatment to long term scar management.

The Burns Unit Scar Management Clinic delivers a high standard of care in accordance with evidence based practice guidelines in Burn Trauma Rehabilitation. The primary role of the Burns OT is to provide specialist scar education, treatment and management to prevent problematic scarring, contractures and skin breakdown post a burn, while maintaining joint function and improving overall cosmetic appearance and quality of life.

A significant proportion of the unit’s acute admissions are people from remote Aboriginal communities. The unique issues and challenges presented by this patient group demand adaptations to standard approaches to practice. Working with remote dwelling Aboriginal people offers opportunities to develop specific educational resources and interventions to meet the demand for culturally responsive care, and address the geographical and environmental challenges that come with living in the Top End.

Providing an effective scar management service to remote dwelling Aboriginal people is challenging, however the RDH Burns Unit continues to strive for best practice, utilising resources such as telehealth, adapting educational tools, and coordinating with community clinics.


Jennifer O’Neill is an Occupational Therapist at the Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH). After graduating from the University of Queensland, Jennifer has spent the last 6 and a half years working in a wide variety of general and specialist areas at RDH, including caseloads in medical, surgical, neurology, oncology, orthopaedic, paediatric and the Emergency Department.
For the last four years Jennifer has been working in an outpatient caseload , specialising in hand therapy. She was the RDH lymphoedema therapist for two years until July 2017, when she moved into the speciality Burns caseload as the primary Burns Occupational Therapist.