I qualified as an Occupational Therapist back in 1994!!! And enjoyed a career in physical OT working at what was then the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow and then in a Community Paediatric OT Team in Lanarkshire for many years. I was then fortunate enough to return to beautiful Wigtownshire and have the luxury of a 4-year career break focusing on the job of being a full-time mum to my wonderful children. When it was time to return to the world of work I had a decision to make, return to OT or try something new? I opted for the trying something new and spent 9 ½ years working as a Dementia Advisor and Carer Liaison Worker with Alzheimer Scotland, an extremely enjoyable but challenging job giving me the privilege of working and sharing the dementia journeys of many wonderful people and their families. This allowed me to use many of my core OT skills and also gain new skills and experience.
Then COVID happened and like many people I began to re-evaluate my career and the idea of returning to OT practice, which I had been considering for some time started to become a reality. It all started during conversations with Wendy Chambers D&G Dementia AHP Consultant and Laura Lennox D&G AHP Practice Education Lead. Laura made contact with Jacqui Pike Occupational Therapy Service Manager who kindly agreed to meet with me and discuss the process of returning to practice. Following that initial meeting Jacqui arranged to discuss this with the OT team and look into the possibility of creating a fixed term Return to Practice post for an OT within the D+G Mental Health OT Service. This all happened in May 2021. While I was waiting to hear about the return to practice post I started the daunting task of completing my 30 days private study required for return to practice.
I have to admit this was hard work while still working 31hrs a week and a mum of three children. I could not have done it without the help and support of my husband and children, all the meals prepared housework and dishes that were done not to mention dog walking!! However by December 2021 this was completed and following a very nervous interview I was offered Dumfries and Galloway’s first OT return to practice post based within the Mental Health OT Service. I started this post in March 2022 with a two month contract. The OT team were all incredibly helpful and supportive welcoming me to the team and making me feel very welcome, sharing their knowledge freely. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to work towards return to practice in a split post, three days in the community and 2 days in Midpark; this allowed me the maximum experience of both acute and stable mental health diagnoses and the vital role of OT in the person’s journey to recovery.
In April 2022 I completed my HCPC return to practice application and it was accepted, I am officially back on the Register as a State Registered Occupation Therapist. On 1st June 2022 I successfully interviewed for Band 5 Community Mental Health Occupational Therapy post covering Wigtownshire, and then on 21st June I was successful in my application for Dumfries and Galloway’s first Perinatal Mental Health OT post at Band 6 for one day a week, covering all of the region a region wide post and joining a small enthusiastic Perinatal Mental Health Team.
To be honest I do feel like pinching myself at times to make sure this is real, I cannot believe what a turnaround I have had in just 14 months. It has been the hardest 14 months of my professional life and the most rewarding; I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me and my career as an Occupational Therapist. If I can do it, so can you. There has never been a more exciting time to be an Occupational Therapist with many development’s in service delivery from Vocational Rehabilitation, First Episode Psychosis Teams and Perinatal Teams to name a few.
If this is something you are considering doing it is definitely worthwhile linking with your local NHS AHP Practice Education Lead for support and advice regarding organising clinical practise experience. RCOT website is also helpful and HCPC. For private study I found TURAS and NES Scotland very helpful with a broad range of modules and resources to access. Also depending on the area of work you wish to return to it is worth reading over latest government policies and strategies that are readily available.
Special thanks must go to my amazing family Kenny, Euan, Eilidh, Beth, Mack, Finn and Bert. My old university friend Lesley Bodin (NHS Lanarkshire) for all the support and reading material. Finally all my new colleagues in Dumfries and Galloway Mental Health OT team, but especially Jacqui Pike, Claire Martin, Sue Linford, Michelle Weems, Christine Bark, Nikki Sacuta and Inna Tjurina without their support and belief that my return to practice was worthwhile I would not be back doing the job I love. THANK YOU.
Shona Sneddon, Occupational Therapist, NHS Dumfries and Galloway: email@example.com