A day in the life of an occupational therapist
With 23 years of clinical experience as an occupational therapist (OT), Anne is passionate about helping people to get their function back and restore their sense of purpose and happiness.
Anne specialises in hand therapy, working at the NHS three days a week and one day at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals via Medacs. Here, Anne tells us more about her role.
What does a typical day look like for you as an OT?
“When you first qualify as an OT, it’s quite generalised, and you do rotations and build a range of skills. Today, I work as a hand therapist at an elective orthopaedic hospital.
“In a morning, I would typically triage all of the wrist and hand operations for that day by determining how long they need post-op with a hand therapist, who would see them based on what's needed and the clinical priority, and then the skillsets of the staff on shift.
“My diary fluctuates in the week but it often has booked appointments. Some appointments will be from the ward with patients immediately post-op to reduce dressings and then complete treatment programmes which could be exercise, splinting or protection. Part of my time will also be spent covering outpatient clinics led by our hand surgeons.”
How do you become an OT?
“To become an OT, you need a degree in occupational therapy and you’ll start as a junior before deciding where to specialise because this clinical area is truly vast. Occupational therapy can also cover both physical health settings as well as mental health settings. For example, if you take a mental health OT and compare their role with that of a hand therapist like me, we could be in two completely separate jobs as there are huge differences in the way they are undertaken.
“Initially, I looked into allied health therapies and physiotherapy, then I learned more about occupational therapy and the work that OTs do. After doing placements and getting experience in trauma and orthopaedics, I decided to specialise in hand therapy.”
What challenges do you occasionally face in your role as an OT?
“The role of occupational therapy not being understood is sometimes a challenge. Many years ago, there was less understanding about the work we do but now there’s more recognition of the importance of helping people who have lost their motivation to get back their feeling of purpose and independence.”
What would you say are the most important skills needed to succeed as an OT?
“Having a genuine interest in people is one of the most important skills to have. As an OT, you need to be able to actively listen to what the patient wants, and to communicate with people from all different backgrounds and show empathy towards their individual circumstances.”
How has your experience been with Medacs?
“It's been a really positive experience. Having the opportunity to work in another hospital and see how the OT role is approached in a different setup has been brilliant and I’ve learned so much.
“You can’t fault Medacs for their communication; there’s always somebody on hand to guide you through the process, and to get you set up with training and all the information you need.”