Case study

Director and lead consultant occupational therapist — Karl Welborn

After starting out as a rehabilitation assistant, Karl studied to become an occupational therapist. He now runs a successful neuro rehabilitation service that provides a one-stop treatment facility

How did you get your job?

I started out in healthcare as a rehabilitation assistant, and became intrigued and inspired by the great work occupational therapists were doing where I worked (in stroke rehabilitation). I made the decision to leave my job and study occupational therapy at Coventry University.

I went on to work in the NHS for many years, building my knowledge and experience through work and further study at postgraduate level, before finally leading a team in stroke and neurological rehabilitation. From here I started to complete some private practice work and developed my own service, NPP Occupational Therapy, that specialises in (but is not exclusive to) neuro rehabilitation.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree is extremely relevant, as you can't become a qualified occupational therapist without having a degree in occupational therapy. You're trained in physical and mental health - one of the few professions trained in both - and split your time between university and out on placement, working alongside some amazing health professionals. This gives you the chance to put into practice what you've been studying.

What's a typical working day like?

I begin the day by completing a morning run of four to six miles (it's important as a therapist that I practise what I preach), before getting ready for my day and checking my diary.

My working day starts at 8am and I'll see a number of clients throughout the day with a range of conditions, including brain injuries, brain damage or strokes. Treatment is tailored to the individual and their needs. For example, I might see someone who has suffered a stroke affecting their upper limb and ability to concentrate. Rehabilitation may consist of 1:1 boxing therapy, whereby sequences and combinations of punches are given to the client who has to remember the combination and concentrate, while at the same time improving their upper limb function (power, speed, co-ordination).

Alternatively, I might have a housing meeting with an architect for a disabled teenager who has acquired a property that needs adapting. I would discuss adaptations and considerations on the build to ensure the property and environment optimises the client's independence and functional potential.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I particularly enjoy meeting people and showing them that they can achieve more than they think. It's a great feeling to support individuals when they see no hope and watch them transform into the person they want to be.

I also enjoy inspiring my peers and younger professionals, and developing the profession of occupational therapy and what it stands for in today's climate. I've devised new ideas and concepts around occupational therapy professional progression, and am currently employing a staff member who is striving to become an expert practitioner on an in-service scheme, 'The Fast Track OT'.

What are the challenges?

Some of the challenges I face are financial restraints, for example some clients not being able to access a certain service or equipment due to cost. Other challenges include attitudes towards my clients and my profession, as well as difficulties with processes within healthcare.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope to be making large steps in the healthcare private sector, taking my model of occupational therapy and integrating it into rehabilitation settings nationally. I'm hopeful that the team will continue to grow and the company will become known for its impeccable reputation as one of the leading rehabilitation providers, with an emphasis on staff development for enhanced patient care.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Be patient - learn as much as you can, but remember it takes time.
  • Feel privileged - don't forget that the people you assess and treat are human and deserve respect. Feel privileged that you're able to help and they're letting you in to their lives.
  • Be brave - there will be challenges, but always be kind and do the right thing.

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