Robert is an Occupational Therapy Apprentice and an Assistant Care Co-Ordinator at Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.
Below Robert has shared the story of his career so far …
"My journey to become an Occupational Therapy (OT) student, and future OT, started way back in my early teens as I knew then I wanted to help people. At the age of 16 I lost my dear grandmother who fought a battle with cancer but in the end, it beat her. Along the way she received some fabulous care both in a hospital setting and at her home. I spent a lot of time with her and my grandfather throughout my life and especially whilst she was unwell. Seeing the care, she received ignited my internal flame for others to receive such care, I knew I had the ability, empathy and compassion to do this but didn’t know where or indeed how. Although this flame was burning within me, I found myself in Engineering as a profession working my way to shift manager. The pressure was high and for me there was no reward, my desire to help others was not being met.
One day I quit my role and I took a three-month sabbatical from work to re-evaluate life and explore my next pathway. I had always enjoyed sport, no matter what sport it was, even though I am drawn to football. At this point I felt maybe sport physiotherapists was the way forward. To my dismay, there wasn’t any assistant physio roles available within the local NHS. However, what I did see was an assistant occupational therapy role. I had no idea what occupational therapy was at this stage - I had never come across an occupational therapist or even heard those words. I had a friend who was a Clinical Support Worker (CSW) in the local hospital, and I spent some time to find out what the role entailed.
I was lucky to have sufficient transferrable skills, good communication and problem solving were two, and was successful in my application for the role as an assistant OT. I have a lot of drive, ambition, and determination to achieve good things and make a difference. I spent 6 wonderful years working with some great OTs on many rehab and acute wards gaining a vast array of knowledge and experience, but whilst I really enjoyed the reward of helping others along their journeys, I had the burning desire to become a qualified OT. At this time there was no funding within the NHS for this to happen and I wasn’t in a position to self-fund, my only hope was some kind of sponsorship.
I moved on into an assistant care co-ordinators position with my local authority which I felt would enhance my skill level and give me different insight of how the role of an OT could work in a different setting whilst at the same time being able to apply the skill set and knowledge gained from an NHS setting. My employer enrolled me on to the BTEC route to allow entrance into university to complete the degree. Sadly, the funding at this point had ended for sponsoring assistant Occupational Therapist to progress onto their degree. Although disappointed I knew I must keep improving my skillset and knowledge base until one day an opportunity arose. And that day back in 2019 I was lucky enough to be chosen to apply to Coventry University for a place on the newly created Occupational Therapy Apprenticeship Degree course on a part time basis over 4 years which I was successful on application. I was overjoyed when I received the news and at the same time a little nervous as it had been a long time since I had studied, let alone at degree level.
I had no idea what to expect or how I would manage with the extra workload, but I knew this was 100% what I had strived for over the past 20 or so years of working within an occupational therapy setting. I am now almost at the end of my 3rd year of the 4-year course where I am already applying theory in to practise within my role which I have learned of the 3 years. There were areas of the profession such as Mental Health I feared working within but that is exactly where my first placement setting was. As with everything I am a firm believer of what you put into something you will get out and so I applied all of me into the 8 weeks in a men’s secure mental health hospital and all my fears were wiped away within a week. I enjoyed the placement very much and learnt an awful lot along that journey. So much so when invited to make a short video for the university to use to showcase to other applicants and student’s I used this as an example.
I have met and been taught by so many tremendous Occupational Therapists already and I am sure I will meet more in my future career. I am currently in the middle of a module which fits nicely into this written piece. OT is UNIQUE, what other profession gives you the skillset to use and make use of in so many different environments? No other profession is like OT!! The world is your oyster as they say, we help individuals, communities, we can influence policy whether it be local or central government, we can make differences with climate change, we can help communities in their darkest hour and bring them together to enable them to elevate their performances in their meaningful occupations, prevent isolation, deprivation, injustice. I have learnt so much more about the role I love and looking forward to continuing my journey in the future as an OT Apprentice (for another year) and then beyond as a qualified OT where my learning will only continue allowing me to make those differences, I strive to do every day, no matter what setting."
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