Case study

Occupational therapist — Francesca

As a newly qualified occupational therapist, Francesca has been learning new processes, finding out about the roles of external agencies and understanding the expectations of her own role. Find out more about her typical working day

What degree did you study?

I graduated from York St John University in 2019, after completing a BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy.

How did you get your job?

I found the job on the NHS Jobs website during my final semester at university. I submitted my application through the website and was accepted for an interview.

My final-year placement was within an inpatient setting which supported adults with learning disabilities and mental health needs. This experience provided me with a good understanding of the client group I would be working with and gave me a lot to talk about at the interview.

What's a typical working day like?

I usually begin my working day at the office. This gives me the opportunity to check emails, make phone calls and prepare for any community visits to clients in their own homes or residential settings. I find this is useful in creating a picture of how the person lives and to complete assessments within their home environment.

Part of my role is to contribute to memory assessments - this involves gathering information from the client and/or their family or carers and completing assessments of the client’s motor and process skills through observations of their daily tasks.

Another aspect of my role is working with adults with profound and multiple learning disabilities and completing postural and specialist seating assessments. I also complete sensory observations and assessments to find out how the individual’s sensory needs impact on their daily lives.

Our team consists of physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, learning disability nurses, psychologists and psychiatric consultants, and there is plenty of opportunity to complete joint work with the different disciplines. We have a team meeting once a week.

There are huge benefits of working within a multidisciplinary team, with each professional offering different skills and knowledge.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really love working with adults with learning disabilities and the role is really varied and very rewarding. I also enjoy working in the community and visiting people in different areas of the county.

What are the challenges?

In any role that works so closely with people, there are always challenges to overcome. People are complex, but I find that my role as an occupational therapist allows me to take a holistic approach to gathering information about the person. Some people with learning disabilities may use different ways to communicate so it is important to be calm and patient to ensure that their wishes and needs are heard and understood.

Having a supportive team and seeking advice and guidance when needed has supported the transition from student to qualified occupational therapist.  

In what way is your degree relevant?

Without a qualification in occupational therapy I would not have been considered for the role. My degree has opened up lots of opportunities, enabling me to work in many different areas and with a variety of client groups.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I am very much at the beginning of my career, but I hope to remain working with learning disabilities and develop specialist skills and knowledge within this sector. I aim to access further training in sensory processing and other occupational therapy specific assessment tools.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Try to find some work experience - I was lucky to be able to shadow an occupational therapist in my local hospital. I also volunteered within a residential home for adults with disabilities.
  • Keep an open mind about which area of occupational therapy you would like to work in - You will complete practice placements throughout your training in different settings. Try to make the most of each placement even if you think it is not an area you will seek employment in.
  • Take the time to read what is being asked in the application form - Focus in particular on the person specification and try to explain how you meet the criteria. This could make the difference between being invited to interview or not.

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