Kieran, Occupational Therapist

Kieran tells us his experiences as an OT and why he chose West Sussex.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name’s Kieran, I’m 34 years old and I have two young children, who are one and three, and two dogs that keep me very busy. I love being outside, walking and generally keeping busy - I can’t stand sitting in! I love visiting new places and can’t wait until we can get out and start visiting places again.

What inspired you to become an occupational therapist?

Like a lot of other occupational therapists [OTs], I’d done a lot of jobs and never really found what I enjoyed and what I was designed to do. Being a good problem solver and wanting to help people, I decided to do an Access course at university and looked at the allied health professions as I was unsure of which avenue to take.

At the same time, I saw first-hand what OTs can do for my mum who has Multiple Sclerosis. My mum’s debilitating condition caused some real complications to her mental and physical health, and the adaptations they made, including redesigning her home, whilst considering my mum’s personal and individual needs, made such a huge difference.

We’re about nine years on now and my mum is starting to deteriorate again, but the work that was done by the OT through West Sussex County Council (WSCC), really prolonged her independence and we’ve been lucky to be able to make more memories. So, seeing the work that can be done really made me think 'That’s what I want to do! I want to change people’s lives'.

Why did you choose to work for West Sussex?

The role in my previous workplace was erratic. You’d see four to five people a day and wouldn’t get the chance to reflect on your practice and develop your skills - you’d just get the job done, tick the boxes and move on to the next.

I was advised a few times that WSCC would be a great place to work because they would help support my development and hone my skills.

One day, I referred a patient to the council and discovered there was a job vacancy - I went for it, was successful and haven’t looked back.

I have worked in community mental health with a psychosis team and community rehab. I have found that I most enjoy working with and supporting people who have lifelong complex needs, and with WSCC I’m able to do this.

What is the best thing about being an OT in West Sussex?

You’re given a good amount of time to work with people. The support from colleagues and senior staff - they’re always on hand and there are no silly questions, which is lovely.

The flexibility of working hours is also great, particularly as my partner is a midwife/nurse working shifts. This morning for example, she usually finishes at 7.30am but didn’t finish until 8.30am, which meant I couldn’t start work until she was back to take the kids to nursery - so having the flexibility with my hours really helps with home life.

What do you particularly enjoy about working in the OT team?

The trust and support. I’m trusted by my manager to manage my work and receive support from my colleagues when I’m stuck. These make all the difference to managing our caseloads. Also, the decent amount of time you get to truly work with people - I feel like I’m doing 'real' therapy here.

How does West Sussex support you to develop and progress?

Since starting, I’ve been put on a few courses, including 'Moving and Handling' and 'Motivational Interviewing'. Whilst my moving and handling skills are fine, I lacked confidence and WSCC have really helped with this by giving me opportunities and guidance to practice.

My manager and supervisor have also put me through to a progression course to become a senior OT, which I’m waiting to get more information about.

Is there a case or something about your work here that makes you feel proud?

There are lots of cases, but the regular occurrence for me is the depth of relationship that you can build with a customer.

Recently, I made an assessment that self-hoisting was too risky and dangerous for a particular customer. My conversation with them about this started off in a negative manner, which is understandable when you consider that the customer has a debilitating condition which they find upsetting and you’re advising them against doing something they really want to do which they believe will keep their independence. However, after a clear conversation and explanation, together we concluded that self-hoisting wasn’t in fact the safe option and I found another suitable way for them to transfer, which they accepted happily.

We have gone on to develop a good relationship, where we can have a laugh and a joke whilst still being professional of course.

I’m proud that I was able to identify that the symptoms of their medical condition would increase risk when being hoisted - that I remembered something so complex and used it in clinical reasoning. It was nice to see that my knowledge has developed.

What would you say are the challenges of being an OT?

There are fewer challenges at WSCC than in my previous role, mainly because I get time to research and find the best solutions for people.

As problem solvers, the biggest challenges for us are on those rare occasions when we’re unable to support someone’s want for their independence, which is normally due to an advanced medical situation or condition. However, we do try and think outside the box to ensure that the customer is at least safe and as comfortable as possible. Sadly, there are times when a condition gets to a certain stage and there isn’t an answer other than helping them be comfortable and safe.

If there is one myth you could bust about occupational therapy, what would it be?

That we do basket weaving - not once have I ever come across this activity in my four years! I don’t think people fully understand what OTs do and it’s very hard to explain because our role is different in every area we work in.

What would you say to somebody considering joining us?

I’ll try not to sound like I’m just doing a sales pitch, but I’d say, 'do it!'. Genuinely, since joining West Sussex and my team, my stress levels have reduced, the amount of time I spend at home with my family has increased, I feel like my knowledge has increased and I’m building confidence and making a genuine difference to people’s lives. I don’t feel batted down and I’m much happier!

West Sussex County Council has a lovely culture and it’s very rare that I work past my hours - there’s a real work/life balance.

Find out more about working in occupational therapy and view our current vacancies.

Last updated:
30 June 2022
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