Case study

Occupational therapist — Steven Harvey

Steven's role is to understand the link between health and work in order to increase physical, emotional, cognitive and social functioning, so patients can live safe and independent lives

How did you get your job?

I graduated from Coventry University in 2018, having completed a BSc in occupational therapy and spent time working as a rotational occupational therapist in the NHS. This allows me to rotate around different medical specialties in an acute hospital setting. I successfully gained this job by applying through NHS Jobs and attending an interview with the specific trust.  

The name occupational therapist can be confusing, as it implies a focus on work. However, the focus is more on any meaningful occupations of daily living. 

What's a typical working day like?

Currently I work within the cardio-respiratory therapy team, and am based on a ward that specialises in treating heart failure. My day normally starts with a ward round, which is a meeting with other members of the multidisciplinary team, including doctors, physiotherapists and nurses, where we discuss each patient. I normally receive referrals from the team or by screening medical notes.

Having a long-term condition such as heart failure has a significant impact on a patient's physical and psychological health and their ability to participate in everyday activities. I therefore carry out a range of assessments, including a physical assessment, where I'm assessing what people can do for themselves and if they require any equipment or adjustments to their environment to support them.

I also assess other activities of daily living, such as washing and dressing, and domestic tasks such as meal preparation. Much of my role focuses on discharging patients from hospital to home and ensuring they have adequate support in place.

What do you enjoy about being an occupational therapist?

I really enjoy working with lots of different people, particularly older generations. Every day is varied as you deal with a diverse range of people and their home circumstances. I find seeing people grow in confidence and being able to undertake independent lives very rewarding.

What are the challenges?

The main challenges within my job include the acute nature of my role. Ideally, from a therapy point of view, I would like to work with people more long term, but this isn't always possible in an acute busy setting. This emphasises the importance of relevant onward referrals to ensure people are well supported. Another challenge is managing patient and family expectations of what is available.

How relevant is your degree?

It's essential, as you can't become a qualified occupational therapist without a degree.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

Over the next five years I hope to progress to the role of senior occupational therapist and begin to specialise in a specific clinical area.

What's your advice to others interested in occupational therapy?

  • Do as much research into the profession as you can to find out if it's something you would enjoy doing.
  • Look out for allied health professional open days to speak to people in the role.
  • Try to get relevant work experience - you can normally do this by contacting your nearest NHS trust.

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