Looking back, I originally wanted to be a vet – but after a work experience week watching animals being put down on a regular basis, I decided that wasn’t going to be for me.
I then worked my way through the army cadets, reaching the top rank of Warrant Officer class 1 and wanted to be an army officer (like my Dad) although withdrew my application and turned down sponsorship from the Signals regiment, weighing up the potential negative impact on family life that moving around with the army would have.
I then looked into physiotherapy, following my love for sports, sports studies and biology, but again didn’t quite feel it was quite the right fit for me after a shadowing experience in an Intensive Care Unit, where I was a little put off by chest physiotherapy interventions (I was a bit too squeamish for this) and continued to broaden my search for the right career for me.
I finally overheard a friend being advised about Occupational Therapy in a careers office and looked it up in the ‘UCAS’ big book of careers, as this was before google was a thing and liked what I read.
My mother was a nurse and although nursing didn’t appeal, I did like the idea of working in healthcare within a caring profession, so she perhaps was an inspiration too. Also, I quite liked science and I liked the idea of the scientific / biology components to the course.
I ended up in mental health quite by mistake however, after a very engaging work shadowing experience, followed by an enjoyable student placement in older people’s mental health during my course, where I could see how my love of art and music could also potentially be tapped into. My 20+ year OT career has included roles in physical health and mental health and it’s interesting to see how I’ve come full circle and older people’s mental health services continues to be where I work now.
I couldn’t ask for a better role, if variety is what I’m after
I provide leadership to Occupational Therapy staff in 5 teams (within Mental Health Services for Older People), spanning the community and 2 wards, but I also get to continue to see patients, so I get the best of a few worlds.
I couldn’t ask for a better role, if variety is what I’m after. I do need to be quite organised and comfortable with a constantly changing diary landscape, due to the number of projects I’m involved in, balancing my caseload and also supervising and supporting staff, but I’m happy to manage my time and flex as needed to keep things interesting.
I get to be involved in new developments within Occupational Therapy across the trust and attend a trust wide Lead OT meeting each month, where we collectively work together to continuously improve our services. I’m also involved in both governance and business meetings within my locality, so have a position where I am able to represent Occupational Therapy and offer multi-disciplinary perspectives to discussions as required.
I was always interested in leadership, since being in a leadership position in the army cadets when I was 18. I enjoy personal development and working on becoming more self-aware and this feeds into the work that needs to be done in order to successfully lead others. I worked on myself and enjoyed this, through reading and courses, with no clear idea of where I would eventually find myself, however when my Lead OT left, my line manager encouraged me to go for the job. I did just that and was delighted to succeed at interview in 2017 and I haven’t looked back ever since.
Everything. I’m actually quite pleased that I managed to get a good 15-16 years of clinical OT experience under my belt before stepping into providing professional leadership to others. I felt that that really paved the way for me to more successfully work in this position and provide confident clinical supervision to the specialist Occupational Therapists within the team. The variety of clinical experiences I’ve had have definitely helped me to apply knowledge and skills to my working practices and support others.
My favourite days are often my clinical days however, as you can’t put a price on being able to still practice clinically and do what you love, so that I can keep current, keep grounded and lead whilst also feeling like I’m immersed and participating in the teams pull towards our objectives, to provide great patient care.