1) Where are you based?
I’m based near Richmond in North Yorkshire, in a rural village which is convenient to both the A1 and the A66.
2) Tell me a little bit about yourself?
I’m married with a dog and several chickens! I am really interested in creative and musical things. I love playing the piano and knitting - especially knitting small animals to raise funds for Headway which is a charity close to my heart. I’m a keen outdoors person, spending my free time kayaking, pack-rafting, and walking and nature watching, which is one of the reasons that I was drawn to the area. I’m an avid gardener.
3) What do you do at A Chance for Life?
My work is split between case management and occupational therapy clients. I cover the north of England although I’m spending more time in the north east and Yorkshire areas. I have been with the company for 4 years and have seen my role change and develop. I have helped develop the case management role and clinical governance within the company, and I’ve contributed to the CQC registration and all that entails.
4) Take us through a typical working day
A typical day for me would be checking emails and phone messages, going out to visit clients, writing up clinical notes, making phone calls and liaising with people involved with the rehab of my clients.
A client meeting could involve reviewing their goals, or it could be going out and helping a client use public transport to increase their independence, or helping someone develop strategies to manage fatigue by planning their week.
I accompany clients to appointments to help their employer understand how brain injury impacts on their ability to do their job and how best to facilitate a graded return to work. I also help the client implement and manage their support team, ensuring they get the support they need.
5) How did you get started in the industry?
I knew I wanted to work with people but the thought of being a nurse didn’t appeal because of having to deal with bodily fluids! I wasn’t scientific enough to be a physio and so my careers advisor at school suggested OT which at the time I hadn’t heard of. So I ended up spending a year at Lord Mayor Treloar College (a residential school for physically handicapped children) as an OT volunteer (which I loved) and which then led me to apply to train as an OT.
My first introduction to brain injury was when I was at junior school - my teacher had a seizure in class while playing the guitar and dropped it on my head! He had seizures as a result of a brain injury he sustained when he was hit in the head with a discus.
Also my uncle had a motorbike accident and suffered a brain injury - he was someone we spent quite a bit of time with during the summer holidays.
I didn’t realise the significance at the time, but when I began training as an OT I discovered that I’d already witnessed some of the effects of brain injury at first hand. It made it feel much more real. Brain injury doesn’t just happen to ‘other people’, it can happen to anyone, including people you know.
6) What makes A Chance for Life different?
It is a small and friendly company. We support each other and I feel as though I have a say in things. I think that with Louise being an OT she understands things. In the NHS I had over 30 clients but with this job I have the opportunity to get to know the client and ensure that they get the best possible help I can give.
7) What makes you want to go to work?
I really enjoy not knowing what I am going to be dealing with when I switch on my phone or open my email each day. Every client is different and every day is different because of this. I really like helping people and I really enjoy seeing people improve. I feel as though I’m making a difference. This is also the case with the client’s family who need help sometimes as much as the client.
8) What do you think are the biggest challenges your profession faces today?
The biggest obstacle is that people don’t know what OT/CM is even within the profession. The myth is that OTs just issue pieces of equipment but in fact there is so much more we can do. Because funding for OT given by the NHS has been cut, the rehab element of OT has been taken out of the profession and all that is left is a report on discharge. This is most people’s experience when working with an OT.
9) What is your biggest claim to fame?
My biggest claim to fame was meeting half of the Leeds football team when I worked at a brain injury rehab unit there. Unfortunately I’m a Liverpool supporter!
On a serious note, my biggest claim to fame is presenting at a National OT Conference. I was part of a small group of OTs aiming to improve safe working practice in a secure setting. This was quite a challenge at the time and our work was recognised by the head of psychology. That’s how I came to deliver the findings at the conference.
10) What are your top three tips for someone looking to get their hands on a job like yours?
- Stick to what you believe in (don’t get moulded into the box)
- Don’t sit and wait until a job comes to you - sell yourself.
- Live for today and do the job you want