I always knew whilst growing up I wanted to pursue a career in care. I remember researching and researching, trying to find something that clicked for me.
I believed the best thing for me to do was gain some experience first, to really explore my options and get a feel for what I might be interested in. I joined an agency working as a healthcare support worker, with the intention of working on various mental health wards in Lynfield mount.
Surely, through experience on these various wards I would sway to one profession that felt right.
The Dementia assessment unit is what caught my eye instantly. I booked my first shift and from then on, I made a request to the agency that all my shifts be booked on the Dementia assessment unit.
I felt like I was really making a difference to the service users lives and to their carer’s lives.
Even more, I learnt something about myself, that I truly enjoy working with older people. It wasn’t just a ‘shift’ for me, it was a chance for me to learn from them, listen to their stories, to understand how experiencing memory decline can impact someone’s life and their carers too. And ultimately how the right type of care from various healthcare professionals can make such an amazing difference.
I continued to work on this ward and I would always look forward to spending time with the service users. I think this comes from my upbringing and having that innate feeling to want to help people as best as I can and making a positive difference wherever I could.
I believed the best thing for me to do was gain some experience first, to really explore my options and get a feel for what I might be interested in
I saw a job advertisement on the NHS jobs website for a therapy support worker position on the Dementia assessment unit.
This entailed engaging with the service users in meaningful activity with an aim to improve their mental health and wellbeing, contributing to multidisciplinary meetings and liaising with various healthcare professionals and carers.
At this point I was still part of a healthcare agency, working shifts. However, I didn’t let that stop me from applying. I knew I had the necessary experience, knowledge, skills, and passion to really make a difference and thrive in this role.
I was absolutely overwhelmed with joy when I was offered the job. It felt like a huge step towards me discovering future career prospects… and it was!
One afternoon I spoke to the Occupational Therapist who worked on the ward at that time, I was full of curiosity and asked question after question.
Fortunately, a key skill for an Occupational Therapist is to have patience! She answered my questions, to which I became even more curious about the profession. I decided I needed to complete my own research too. And so after working in an agency as a healthcare support worker, completing two years as a Therapy support worker, I finally discovered what I would like to do.
The apprenticeship scheme enabled me to study at university and transfer the knowledge and skills I developed to my current job role. I was applying theory to practice, and it just felt like the best way to learn!
Occupational Therapists work with various professionals to aid individuals so that they can develop, recover, and maintain skills to maximise their level of independence and live a meaningful life. Alas! I thought, finally this is exactly what I want to do! But how?
It was sort of a bitter sweet moment for me, realising what profession I was interested in but feeling a slight hesitancy on how to reach that goal. I knew I had to complete a degree and qualify to work as an Occupational Therapist.
It was a battle of what to do, staying in a job I really liked but delaying career progression or leaving my job, probably working part time to support myself whilst studying for three years and then qualifying. I spoke about this during my supervision at work and was told about the apprenticeship scheme.
The apprenticeship scheme meant that if successful, I would be able to study and qualify for the Occupational Therapy degree and earn a living for myself too as apprentices are given the opportunity to work and study at the same time.
I applied for the apprenticeship scheme and was successful. I was supported by my family, friends and work colleagues throughout the course.
My course provided me with opportunities to complete placements in various settings, such as schools, general hospitals, mental health wards. The apprenticeship scheme enabled me to study at university and transfer the knowledge and skills I developed to my current job role. I was applying theory to practice, and it just felt like the best way to learn!
Everyone has a different route to progressing in their career, but the Apprenticeship degree has been mine and I’m so glad I took this opportunity
I have now qualified as an Occupational therapist, and I work in the older people’s community mental health team (CMHT’s).
I am part of a team of various healthcare professionals who support people living in the community who have complex or serious mental health problems, who cannot be managed in the Primary Care setting.
Clients are not only managed and supported to stay in the community but are enabled to regain their place in their local community and achieve optimal recovery.
As part of my role, I also work within the memory, assessment, and treatment service (MATS) where clients are assessed, diagnosed, treated, followed-up and reviewed for Memory Impairments such as Mild Cognitive Impairment and all kinds of Dementia.
If you are considering applying for the apprenticeship scheme, I would say it’s the best choice I’ve made for myself.
It has allowed me to develop my skills, knowledge, and progress so much further in my career without having to worry about earning an income whilst I study or having to leave my job!
I would say don’t let the thought of ‘not having enough experience or skills’ put you off, because that’s exactly what an apprenticeship offers!
My journey began working as a healthcare support worker, progressing as a Therapy support worker and now qualifying as an Occupational Therapist.
Everyone has a different route to progressing in their career, but the Apprenticeship degree has been mine and I’m so glad I took this opportunity.