Apprenticeships offer routes into a wide range of careers within the NHS. They give people the opportunity to gain a nationally recognised qualification while completing on-the-job training in their career of choice. Apprenticeships can last between 12 months and 4 years, depending on the type of programme applied for. Members of our occupational therapy team at Harefield Hospital share their insight into this route of becoming an NHS professional.
Simona and Helena, why did you decide to become an occupational therapist (OT)?
Simona: While I was doing my undergraduate psychology degree, I worked in several roles in the intensive care unit at Harefield, supporting patients and the teams working there. Upon completion of my studies, I started a role in the complex discharge team in the rehabilitation and therapies department. I worked in a multidisciplinary team and observed closely the work of occupational therapists, social workers and psychologists.
I was keen to progress and continue with my studies and after experiencing working with so many different professionals, I decided that I wanted to pursue occupational therapy. I was extremely fortunate to have the support of my line manager, and this allowed me to successfully join the apprenticeship scheme.
Helena: I initially completed an undergraduate degree in English Literature and further study in the arts. I had a creative skillset but also developed an interest in health and social care and started working in roles with vulnerable adults which combined my two areas of interest. I ended up flat sharing with some OTs and became interested in the profession. I took on a full-time pre-registration MSc course in occupational therapy for two years and then the rest is history!
I became an apprentice mentor because I was keen to support Simona with her apprenticeship and to find out more about this emerging type of OT training which will help more aspiring OTs in the future.
Simona, what do you do day-to-day in your role as an occupational therapist apprentice?
Simona: As an occupational therapist apprentice, I support with assessments to establish whether changes in patients’ abilities have occurred during their stay at the hospital. We offer interventions to support safe discharge and help patients transition safely back into the community.
As part of my apprenticeship training, I’m working according to a set of competencies which are regularly updated as I progress and develop. I also attend university one day a week where I gain theoretical knowledge which I then apply to my practice.
And Helena, what do you do as an occupational therapist and as Simona’s apprenticeship mentor?
Helena: My work as an occupational therapist at Harefield involves assessing and treating patients who may have experienced a change in their ability to complete their daily tasks and routines due to physical, cognitive or psychological changes. As OTs we have a varied role ranging from the rehabilitation of patients in intensive care, through to assessments and interventions which support discharge and helping patients transition safely into the community.
As an apprentice mentor, I provide Simona with regular formal and informal supervision, guide her developing practice, and help to make links between university-based learning and on-the-job experiences.
Simona, what are the benefits you have seen of doing an apprenticeship?
Simona: By doing an apprenticeship, you earn while you study and have no student debt by the time you complete your apprenticeship. You have more exposure to clinical settings and after completing your apprenticeship, you also come out with crucial work experience which enables you to become a much more confident professional.
Helena, how has your team and department benefitted from taking on an apprentice?
Helena: Having Simona in our team is a real asset. She’s able to support our team with day-to-day working and assessment of patients, graded appropriately to her current development level. It’s been great to see her grow and develop through practice-based learning and through having placements in different settings. We always have lots of thought-provoking discussions about what she’s learning in university and how we can apply different ideas to our current practice.
What advice would you give to someone considering an apprenticeship, Simona?
Simona: Having had the opportunity to study both the traditional way for a degree and via an apprenticeship, I can definitely see a lot of benefits in applying for an apprenticeship. While there is a lot of independent learning involved, I get a lot of guidance and support from my university and my mentor. In my opinion, there is no better way of learning than through practice.
And Helena, what advice would you give to someone considering to be a mentor?
Helena: Being an apprenticeship mentor is a great opportunity to support someone who is keen to join your profession and to develop their clinical skills. You’ll need to dedicate time to supervision and be open to lots of questions and reflection on your own practice – but it will help both of you to grow and progress!
To find out more about apprenticeships within the Trust, visit the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust website.