Oxfordshire case studies: Occupational Therapy Week (2-8 November)

Helping people help themselves and making a positive difference to their lives is what motivated Kathryn Howard to change profession and become an occupational therapist (OT).

She previously worked in Oxfordshire County Council’s adult social care administration department where she was encouraged by a senior manager to embark on a new career. Now she’s doing the same for others during Occupational Therapy Week (2 - 8 November).

OTs assess and work in a variety of locations across the county including in people’s homes and in prisons, residential and nursing homes and hospitals.

Kathryn, whose role centres on helping people maintain, recover and develop aspects of their lives, said: “No two days are the same and it’s an incredibly rewarding career, as you are enabling people to assist themselves to improve the quality of their lives.

“I discovered occupational therapy while working as an administrator. I initially dipped my toe in the profession after successfully applying for a coordinator role, supporting people with social and healthcare needs. That was an excellent opportunity to develop my assessment skills and further ignited my interest in wishing to become an occupational therapist.”

Kathryn, pictured above, who works with people in South Oxfordshire, undertook training at Oxford Brookes University and graduated last year. As part of her course she undertook placements at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital Stroke Unit and at a forensic mental health hospital.

She said: “There is plenty of problem-solving involved in the role and you have to have good listening skills to understand what is important to each person.

“It’s largely about empowering people to learn new skills to enable them to be independent and doing that is massively rewarding – it fits so well for me as I feel I’m making a positive difference.”

Parish Rawlins completed occupational therapy work experience when studying for her GCSEs and liked it so much that she then progressed to a degree in it at Coventry University, which included a ten-week placement with Oxfordshire County Council, where she then worked as an OT after graduating.

Now a practice supervisor, Parish said: “I had no idea what occupational therapy was until I completed my work experience and I loved it. It’s such a caring and rewarding role as you help people do what is most important to them and their own life.

“I knew I wanted to work in adult social care following my second year placement, luckily Oxfordshire County Council had a vacant post and it has supported me to progress from an occupational therapist to supporting occupational therapists as a practice supervisor.”

The council currently employs 74 OTs, who work in a range of fields including:

  • seating, posture and pressure management
  • working with district councils around adaptions to people’s homes
  • moving and handling
  • assessing people for assistive technology, which are electronic devices designed to help people with everyday tasks
  • rehabilitation.

Councillor Lawrie Stratford, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “I would certainly encourage anybody interested in a career in occupational therapy to find out more about it and hopefully they will see it as a rewarding and positive career choice.”

Anybody interested in a career in occupational therapy can find out more information on The Royal College of Occupational Therapy website.