Occupational Therapist

Nicky Thomas
Nicky Thomas

Nicky Thomas

My Career Journey as an Occupational Therapist

Nicky Thomas - Associate Director for Allied Health Professionals (AHP) Transformation

Can you give an overview of your career journey so far?

I qualified in 2003 from the four-year in-service training course in Occupational Therapy run by University of Wales College of Medicine Cardiff. At the time I was working as an Occupational Therapy assistant with Carmarthenshire County Council providing aids and adaptations to help people to stay at home despite having disabilities. On qualifying, I took up a role in a residential home for young physically disabled people. There hadn’t been any Occupational Therapy on site prior to me starting so I had to set the service up from scratch which was exciting and anxiety provoking at the same time. Whilst there, I was offered the opportunity to work in a part-time role within Mental Health. This involved working with individuals with severe and enduring mental health conditions, supporting them to live normal lives out in the community. From there I took up a role as a Community Paediatric Occupational Therapist working with children and their families to provide major adaptations and specialist aids and equipment. I missed working in Mental Health and went to work in vocational rehabilitation, supporting people with mild to moderate mental health problems such as anxiety or low mood to stay in work or return to work after a period of sickness. I undertook a Masters in Chronic Conditions management and then applied for my current substantive role as Professional Lead Occupational Therapist, managing staff across adult, older adult, perinatal and early intervention in psychosis services. I am currently on secondment with HEIW as Associate Director for AHP Transformation.

Why did you choose this area of work?

I initially started training as a student nurse in 1988, however couldn’t finish my training as I had my eldest son and didn’t have childcare to enable me to finish. I had worked alongside Occupational Therapists when training as a nurse and wanted to be able to make a real difference in people’s lives by helping them to regain their independence in everyday activities. I had observed the Occupational Therapists facilitating group work and one-to-one interventions on the ward and could see the difference it made to the patients.

What types of patients and professionals did you work with?

The types of patients I have worked with include older adults, younger adults with disabilities, people living with dementia, people with learning disabilities, children and their families, and individuals living with mild to moderate and severe and enduring mental health problems. The professionals I have worked with include Physiotherapists, Nurses, Psychologists, Social Workers, Psychiatrists, Department of Work and Pensions, School Teachers, Pharmacists.

What were your favourite aspects of working as an Occupational Therapist?

I have always enjoyed my work as an Occupational Therapist. I am so glad that I have been able to have such a rich and varied career. My favourite role has been Professional Lead Occupational Therapist as I have been able to work with Occupational Therapy staff and a variety of stakeholders across different specialties within mental health and influence the direction of travel for Occupational Therapists as part of the transforming mental health agenda. This work has also enabled me to work with third sector agencies and in coproduction with service users, both of whom have given me a wider perspective when considering making changes.