Hey guys, I'm Charlie, a mature first-year MSc Occupational Therapy student. Going to university was never on my radar as a young person. After missing half of my primary and secondary education, I left school without any qualifications or dreams for the future. However, after becoming a single parent, I decided to go back to education. It took a few years and two failed courses before I eventually achieved a degree in Speech and Language Science. Now, at the age of 38, I am on route to gaining a Master's in Occupational Therapy.
I didn't choose occupational therapy....Occupational Therapy chose me when my personal tutor suggested I study it. During my degree, I was more interested in understanding how clients managed to do important and meaningful things than I was in treating their speech impairments. I wanted to know how they used the telephone, public transport and navigated their social environment with limited communication. Essentially, I cared more about the environment and how it could be adapted and modified to support participation, demonstrating the traits of an occupational therapist. In addition, Occupational Therapy covers a range of areas, from mental and physical health to neurology. This means I can move around and work in various settings, such as acute hospitals, prisons, and the community. This diversity, coupled with my desire to improve people's quality of life, attracted me to the profession.
To say the least.....Starting an MSc in Occupational Therapy was a daunting experience, and I was sceptical about my ability to work at such a high level. I learn by doing and so find academic writing difficult. However, the course offers various' hands on' opportunities that help reinforce my learning. For instance, going on placement has allowed me to apply the theory taught in lectures to real-life patients and situations. Fun and interactive group sessions, although intimidating at first, have helped me practice my clinical skills and gain confidence in my abilities. The practical nature of the course and the opportunity to practice my skills has made my learning experience positive and enjoyable.
There are so many challenging parts of this course... but the most challenging part of the course is the level of critical thinking required. I am better at speaking my thoughts than writing them down, so I find assignments tough. However, through feedback and the use of study skills resources, I am improving my critical thinking skills, and I am learning to enjoy the academic writing process.
I would have to say that my favourite part of the course is going on placement and working with patients, their carers and loved ones. I get great satisfaction from forming relationships with people that encourage and support them to regain or develop the skills they need to carry out meaningful tasks and activities.
My best advice for anyone wanting a change..... It's never too late to start a career in Occupational Therapy. Do not let your age or academic history stop you. All you need is some life experience or work experience in the social care sector, and you will be prepared for the course's practical elements. As for the academic side, universities are well equipped to support you with various resources and workshops to help develop your writing skills.
The last thing I will say is.... Be prepared to defend, explain and advocate for your profession, as Occupational Therapy is yet to gain the recognition it deserves. Many people misunderstand what Occupational Therapists do. There is a push to change this, and you are expected to be a part of that. So, be willing to understand and highlight the value and importance of improving health and wellbeing through participation in meaningful occupations.
Listening to Charlie's story has been inspirational to say the least! Watch this space for more AHP back stories 😁