I was attracted to a career in the health sector. Growing up I always wanted to be a nurse.
I migrated from Jamaica to this country in the 1980s to join my siblings and found a job as a healthcare assistant in one of the large teaching hospitals in London working in theatres at the time.
My boss encouraged me to do nursing but I came across Occupational Therapy (OT) when I was sent to the Rehabilitation ward on an errand.
I was hooked and never looked back since. I applied to train as an OT at Brunel and the rest is history.
I first experienced Occupational Therapy by observing Occupational Therapists practicing dexterity manipulation and control in relation to function on a neurological ward. I was fascinated and resolved to research Occupational Therapy as a profession.
The more I learnt about the profession and the impact of occupations consolidated in my mind that Occupational Therapy was the career for me.
Previously, I thought nursing was the career for me as I enjoyed helping people and doing what I can to support them to get well.
I had no expectations of the profession back then. I just thought that once I completed my training I could start to make a difference to people’s lives.
The more I learnt about the profession and the impact of occupations consolidated in my mind that Occupational Therapy was the career for me
I started working as a ‘Basic Grade’ OT, now the equivalent of a Band 5 post, in a rotational post at Hillingdon Hospital once I qualified. I knew early on that I wanted to work in Social Services but also wanted to get my foundation skills developed hence the rotational post.
Following my rotation I went to work for Harrow Social Services for a few years before moving onto Brent Social Services. Whilst at Brent I was appointed as Duty Team Lead.
I left Brent and came to Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals as Head of Service for Occupational Therapy.
I have recently been appointed Chair of Council for the Royal College of Occupational Therapists / British Association of Occupational Therapy.
There were a few lightbulb moments for me in my career. The first was on completion of my first Major adaptations to a client’s property. I knew that having an accessible environment was important but the response from the client was overwhelming. He was then able to manage most of his daily tasks without support as the adapted environment enabled him to do so.
The second happened when I moved to the North East of England and realised that I was the only black OT within the team. Having worked in Brent as one of the most multi-cultural boroughs in London, this difference was not noticed then as it was a very diverse team.
It was in the North East that I finally realised that Occupational Therapy was viewed by many as a white middle class profession and that I did not fit the mould. It was always spoken about by other colleagues during my training, but I never really took this onboard. No one within the organisation was expecting a black OT and it took a while for me to build relationships.
The final light bulb moment I will share happened following the death of George Floyd. It was at that point that I realised that our profession needs to do more to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion for all it’s members.
I have always stood outside the profession but realised at that point that if I wanted things to change, I needed to do my part to support/enable that change.
I chair the BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) staff network at Newcastle Hospitals.
I also co-chair the North East, North Cumbria (NENC) Integrated Care System (ICS) BAME Network Chairs group across the North East region.
My employer strives to be an inclusive employer and we have made progress however, we still have work to do as our organization does not reflect the local population. We are a work in progress.
I love being able to make a difference to patients by ensuring that I equip my staff with the tools necessary for them to deliver effective care to patients
My day job is pretty varied. No two days are the same.
I have the usual operational management responsibilities such as recruitment, management and HR type meetings, steering group meetings and task and finish groups.
I also spend time supporting staff with personal and operational issues. I undertake some strategic roles and represent the organisation on a number of forums. I am a Cultural Ambassador for the organisation so I’m also involved in a number of Disciplinary, Capability, Dignity and Respect proceedings.
In my role as Chair of Council for the RCOT/BAOT, I spend time undertaking tasks to ensure effective Governance of the organisation. This includes, working with the Chief Executive to ensure delivery of the strategy, attending various meetings with key stakeholders, representing the organisation on regional, national and international forums, liaising with the Senior Management team on key issues and supporting member engagement events. All RCOT/BAOT related duties are carried out alongside my role as Head of Service for OT.
I love the variety of the role and the fact that no two days are the same.
I love being able to make a difference to patients by ensuring that I equip my staff with the tools necessary for them to deliver effective care to patients.
I love being able to make a difference to staff to enable them to bring their best selves to work and I love being able to support members to feel included and valued by the professional body. This still remains a work in progress but I’m committed to ensuring this remains a priority.
I intend to keep to my election promise of amplifying the voices of our members less heard and to do my part in ensuring that ALL members of the RCOT/BAOT feel valued and able to contribute to the profession
The additional roles that I undertake outside of my professional roles are important to me as they are a means of giving something back to the community.
These roles help to keep me grounded and I can make a difference in people’s lives in these roles.
The learning and experience that I’ve gained from undertaking these additional roles has certainly helped to support my development and has been instrumental in my ability to take on the role as Chair of Council for the RCOT/BAOT.
I would encourage them to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy as you can make a huge difference to people’s lives and you can enhance someone’s quality of life.
I would also encourage them to explore the variety of roles that Occupational Therapy has to offer as there is something for everyone.
I would also advise that you are generally guaranteed a job once you are qualified as an Occupational Therapist as there is a national shortage and there is always a variety of job roles out for advert.
The role as Chair of Council is a really important role and comes with huge responsibilities.
I am humbled that the membership body has seen it fit to appoint me into this role and I do not take this responsibility lightly. This means a lot and I intend to keep to my election promise of amplifying the voices of our members less heard and to do my part in ensuring that ALL members of the RCOT/BAOT feel valued and able to contribute to the profession.
I intend to work with our members to strengthen our collective voices. Together we will be a stronger voice advocating for our colleagues, clients and patients.
Take a look at some of our other Occupational Therapy Inspirational Stories