Tag Archives: Occupational Therapy

A day in the life of a children’s occupational therapist

This is a day in the life of an occupational therapist (OT) working with our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) in Herefordshire:

“I arrive at the office and grab a coffee and sort through messages from parents, often about concerns or requests for support to help school understand. Returning calls and trying to catch teachers before lessons start is always a bit of a challenge.

“First appointment today with a young girl and her mum and dad. She is struggling at school with learning and socialising with others. Working with the whole family helps to see how they are together. Some roleplay helped us all to understand what happens when things go wrong and lead to her social isolation. As OTs, we are really skilled in coming up with practical strategies to manage challenges. Some cutting, sticking and laminating later for this family, they have a traffic light system to use at home and school to help her share how she feels.

“Dealing with the unexpected is part of every single day in a CAMHS team. This time, a phone call from a distressed dad whose son is struggling to come to terms with the death of a friend by suicide. Drawing on the skills of the medic and psychologist in the team, together we can support him through the grieving process.

“My skills as an OT really help to support young people to achieve success in spite of their challenges with anxiety. Planning activities so they are achievable is a really important part of what we do. This might be homework, essays, meeting friends after school or things that are more important to them, such as being able to ask for a can of Coke in the canteen.

“Helping schools to understand how best to support someone and enable their success is so important. Often, it’s about helping teachers to understand the young person’s experiences and suggest that maybe asking them to read aloud in front of the class isn’t the best thing right now. We can challenge them with that later, but first let’s give them a space where they can be confident enough to do their learning.

“At lunchtime there is time to catch up with my fellow OTs, to share knowledge about a new referral and the best approach to support a young boy who has been diagnosed with Selective Mutism following a major trauma and is struggling in school. Sharing experience and picking the brains of colleagues is always useful.

“Every day is different and being creative (another OT skill!) about how we might support a person to overcome their challenges is a great part of the role. Today, it’s running down to the radiology department at the County Hospital to take lots of photos of the department, X-ray machines and members of staff holding a board with messages of encouragement for a girl who is on the Autistic Spectrum who is trying hard to overcome a specific phobic of X-rays so she can have  important surgery.  Brilliant!

“It’s a busy, demanding job with many positives and the odd challenge or two. Now and again, things happen which remind us why we do what we do. While cycling home, I pass a young person I used to work with who is hanging out with his mates and ‘being cool’ but manages to give me a quick grin that reassures me all is still going well; phew.”

A night in the life of an occupational therapist

“I’ve just finished a night shift at the Maxwell Suite and am looking forward to sinking into bed.

“On my drive home I have been reflecting on the many conversations I’ve had during the night; with my colleagues, the police, AMHPs, doctors, the accident and emergency department, the wards, taxi drivers, service users and family members – true multi-agency working!

“Many were conversations with services users who can’t sleep because of their intrusive thoughts or voices. As an occupational therapist, my skills in understanding how mental illness can impact on the things we want to do and need to do come in really useful. They help me identify what might help. things people enjoy that might be a distraction, but also sometimes just to listen and acknowledge how tough it feels.

“There was a call from the police. They have detained someone and are on route to the Maxwell suite and we will soon need to meet them and understand how we can best support the person.

“While on my phone call I could hear a colleague talking to someone on the phone and asking how many pills they had taken and trying to gently get information about their whereabouts.

“Another colleague is on a call with carers, who are desperately trying to advocate for a loved one, while they can be heard in distress in the background.

“As I end my call, I reach over for information about where the service user might be, and call an ambulance.   Working together and supporting each is so important in this role.

“Then everything falls quiet and tea is made. The three of us on nights write up our notes, still wondering how that family are managing their distressed loved one and if the ambulance has found the other person.

“At 2am, a moment of respite, the bright office light goes off and the lamp on. Everything falls silent.

“2.30am: The front buzzer goes. The police are standing with the service user they have brought in for assessment.  They are welcomed and reassured.  Physical health checks are completed and tea and toast offered. It’s really important to remember the small things that can make a tough situation a little bit better.  The police go and the AMHP and doctor are called.  The suite bustles with people and work continues till daylight breaks.

“After a busy shift I arrive home and make a cup of tea to take to bed.  There’s something nice about sleeping in the day while my untouched cuppa goes cold.”