Tash - occupational therapy smiling at the camera

Natasha Whitford-Robson, Occupational Therapy Support Worker, tells us her journey from classroom assistant to trainee assistant practitioner and how she’s achieving her dreams without going to university.

A feeling inside me to care for others has been apparent from as far back as I can remember, probably rooted in my family background and helping to care for my three younger sisters. When I was 16, my first job was as a classroom assistant for children with learning disabilities. I can recall a specific child who took a whole year to wave – the feeling of achievement when she did was amazing. At 19, I was the assistant manager of a residential care home, later moving into palliative care. While I loved it, I was also ready for new experiences and opportunities so when I saw this job as an occupational therapy support worker in a hospital come up – helping people build their lives back up – I just had to go for it.

Opportunities and experience

I’d never worked in a hospital setting before, so it was a real eye opener, but it’s genuinely been a fantastic experience. There’s lots of regular training on the ward and we’re constantly learning – even three years in I’m given opportunities to expand my horizons. For example, we have the opportunity to learn more about specific conditions which is always useful on a ward where it’s not all broken limbs.

Reaching goals

Day-to-day, my role as an occupational therapy support worker is about maintaining the daily personal tasks of living, so we’ll have a patient come in with a hip fracture, for example, and we’ll help them maintain their independence and well-being. It may be that they just need an aide to maintain their daily lives, but there are people and cases, which are more complex. We can get patients who are upset or frustrated, so we work with them to reach their goals and recognise when they’ve done well. We would never want to patronise someone but helping them do things for themselves – seeing the expression on their face when they’ve achieved it is so rewarding.

Knowing that I do my best by the patient is what drives me, as well as treating them with respect, dignity and letting them have a sense of self-worth. In our role, it’s all about the patient. This and working together as a multi-disciplinary team, sharing our knowledge and skills, all helps towards achieving our goal and having that sense of true job satisfaction.

A career dream come true

I have always wanted to be a qualified healthcare professional but with a family to look after and a mortgage to pay, going to university wasn’t an option for me. I have always tried to progress my career and develop my skills, and my ultimate goal is to become a qualified healthcare professional. When the opportunity came up to apply for the trainee assistant practitioner course, I knew this was a fantastic opportunity to further my career and reach my ultimate goal!

The interview for the trainee assistant practitioner course was tough but I was absolutely elated to get on the course for two reasons. One, seeing a patient from admission to discharge is really exciting for me, and two, I’ve such a thirst for learning. I’ve always wanted to better myself and I’ve taken every opportunity throughout my career to keep learning, so this was an absolute dream to me and will hopefully lead to me becoming a fully trained practitioner.

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