Case study

Occupational therapist — Saphire Turkson

Saphire enjoys the variety and flexibility of working as a locum occupational therapist. Discover how she built her confidence to achieve a senior position

How did you get into occupational therapy?

After completing a degree in psychology, I went on to do an MSc in Occupational Therapy at the University of Brighton. On completion I began to apply for permanent NHS jobs like many of my peers.

At the time, I didn't believe I had the confidence to clinically practice as a newly qualified locum therapist. However, I uploaded my CV onto a jobs website in response to an advertised vacancy. Within a few hours I received a phone call from a recruiter at the Your World Healthcare agency. He explained that he'd seen my CV and wanted to put me forward for a position.

Explaining my lack confidence, he found me a position as a therapist assistant. At the end of our conversation I had a job, a hire car and the hope that this was the beginning of my new career.

Since that first position, my confidence has increased dramatically and within two years I have grown to become a senior locum occupational therapist.

Don't be afraid to join an agency and locum as a therapist

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Completing my postgraduate training provided me with the necessary qualifications to pursue a career in occupational therapy. Without my Masters degree I wouldn't be able to clinically practice as an occupational therapist.

What do you do as an occupational therapist?

My most recent position involves working with a neurology community team, where I'm expected to carry out occupational assessments of people who may have had a neurological episode (such as a stroke or brain injury).

I start the day by checking my emails for any correspondence concerning my patients. Working within the community allows me to plan my day independently, factoring travel time to the patients' homes, meetings and therapy/assessment time.

Depending on patient needs, most of my working days end at 4.30pm. This is ideal as I can beat the rush hour traffic and get home to care for my family and enjoy my evenings.

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

In the space of two years I've worked across a range of settings, not only increasing my confidence as a therapist, but also broadening my knowledge and experience.

Now that I've achieved a senior status, I want to specialise in neurology.

What do you enjoy about being an occupational therapist?

I have the flexibility to work when, where and how I want within various settings, providing me with a healthy work-life balance.

I can also shape my career at my own pace and develop the areas I'm most interested in. In addition, I've become more financially savvy and able to negotiate pay increases.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Each position is a temporary contract and I have to learn and adjust quickly to each setting.

Any tips for others wanting to become an occupational therapist?

I would strongly encourage any student or newly qualified occupational therapist not to be afraid to pursue a postgraduate course or join an agency and locum as a therapist.

Support is out there and it's possible for you to achieve your dreams and job satisfaction.