Career profile: social services

Andrew Cook works as an occupational therapist in the social services team of a London borough.

occupational therapist andrew cook

Andrew Cook, occupational therapist, Social Services

The single best thing in my setting is allowing people to continue living in their own homes for longer. Not only do people generally want to stay in their own homes but this takes pressures off the NHS services. Seeing this impact and change is very rewarding and reinforces the impact that occupational therapy has.

Read Andrew's answers to the questions below...

Tell us a little about your occupational therapy role and setting

"I work in a long term team, meaning we generally see people in their own homes who are already known to the council. Referrals are made to our team to complete an assessment to further assess the impacts a disability may be having on someone’s ability to complete daily activities such as; accessing their property (or essential facilities within their property), dressing, washing, bathing, eating or preparing meals.

As a result of the assessment, the occupational therapist may be able to help in a variety of ways. For example, they may give advice or information on more suitable housing, put individuals in touch with other services, or assist carers in maintaining their caring role. OT’s may suggest a new way of carrying out certain tasks to make life easier for individuals or provide equipment/ adaptations to help people do a task more independently or safely. The equipment and /or adaptations suggested can be anything from hoists, stair lifts, level access showers, ramps or specialist cutlery. Each person we work with is given help tailored to their own individual needs and circumstances. In my team, we deal a lot with equipment and adaptations as often other council teams have explored options prior to our involvement. Since we work in the community our settings differ greatly depending on people's properties. Assessing someone in their own home allows the OT to get a real picture of their abilities and any potential difficulties they have with daily tasks."

 

Why did you decide to become an occupational therapist?

"I knew I wanted to enter a career based around helping people and making a difference to people’s lives. I started looking around the various healthcare professionals at a time when I was choosing my A-levels. Admittedly OT was not the first profession I found, however, once I did stumble across this I knew it was for me. I compared myself to the person specification for a qualified OT and found my personality traits coincided well with what they were looking for. At this stage, I did not have the clinical knowledge and experience but I knew it was something I wanted to explore further. It was then shadowing OT’s that really made me decide to become one. Shadowing allowed me to gain first-hand experience of the benefits OT has on people’s lives and the impacts you can really have. I entered the profession at an early stage and have no regrets. I studied at Sheffield Hallam University where I completed the undergraduate 3-year course."

What’s the best thing about being an occupational therapist in your setting?

"The single best thing in my setting is allowing people to continue living in their own homes for longer. Not only do people generally want to stay in their own homes but this takes pressures off the NHS services. A big bulk of the work I do in my current role is major home adaptations; often these adaptations genuinely have a big impact on their lives. Seeing this impact and change is very rewarding and reinforces the impact that occupational therapy has."

What advice would you give anyone considering a career in occupational therapy?

Shadow an OT. OT is so diverse and so hard to put into words, there is no better way to see what an OT does than to shadow one for the day. I appreciate that it is often difficult to get direct work experience in OT but contact services and persist until you get an answer. This shadowing is also very useful when applying for OT courses and can be used to meet the entry requirements. It was my experience shadowing OTs that made me want to enter the profession and it gave me a lot to talk about in OT university interviews. 

My second piece of advice is ‘GO FOR IT’! OT is so diverse and inclusive and people enter the career at many different life stages. On my university course, there was a good mix of people straight out of A-levels and colleges and others who had been working as OT assistants for several years. With this in mind don’t be put off by what stage you are at and your experience, or lack of experience, in the profession. Everybody has to start somewhere."

What unique value does occupational therapy bring to people’s lives?

"In one word… independence. A large emphasis of OT is around allowing, encouraging and enabling people to do things for themselves without the assistance of others. Depending on the task being assessed this can have many benefits including; dignity, pride, safety and promoting positive wellbeing."