Blog Post

On International Women’s Day 8th March 2022. A Thank You to the women who shown their support during my two year battle with Covid 19 – #BreakTheBias

In memory of Sue, may you rest in peace. 

Acknowledgment –  Blogging is an occupation I enjoy engaging in, as an effort to appease and make sense of my thoughts. It’s a personal opinion piece based on my own experiences and observations. Any criticism within this blog is not to be taken personally, it is more a criticism of the systems the individuals sometimes have to work within.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Regular readers of my blog will know I’m keen on a dictionary definition as a starting point to help, focus my thoughts.  The idea for this blog came about at the weekend whilst I attended a hendo in the lake district with a group of amazing women, who reminded me, that women are remarkable creatures that truly need to be celebrated, what better day to do that than the 8th March International women’s day. 

Finding a definition of ‘woman’ (plural women) however has its difficulties as in recent years, dictionary definitions have been challenged, as out dated and sexist.  The current definition in the Cambridge dictionary: an adult female human being.  This blog is not a debate on what defines womanhood, for me a woman is anyone who identifies as one.   

International Women’s Day IWD (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific. This years campaign theme is  #BreakTheBias We are being asked to  ‘Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.’

On international women’s day I want to reflect on the strong, supportive, focused, driven, compassionate woman I have met during my long recovery from Covid 19, and the impact they have had on my well-being and journey.  

There are so many women to thank, and I hope I have remembered them all.  

I guess the place to start is at the beginning, with the two female paramedics that collected me from home and took me to A+E, it was at the very beginning of the pandemic no one really knew what they were doing, they came in wearing face masks, listened, were gentle, I felt I was safe with them, they understood it was scary having to leave my partner behind due to the pandemic rules, and stayed with me, until I was seen by someone in A+E. 

The next few months are very hazy,  but I have memories of kindness, compassion and sheer brilliantness from woman working across both hospitals I spent over a year of my life in. These are a few that stood out for me. I will use first names when appropriate and where I remember them.  

To Rachel and the Physio therapy team at the Freeman – I remember a feeling of dread, at the things you were asking me to do, I was scared, in pain and  overwhelmed, but you did it with gentle encouragement, set goals and celebrated the little wins with me. I felt your determination to get me well again. 

To Ann and her Occupational Therapy team at the Freeman – I remember lots of laughing, lots of crying, lots of hand holding. Skills of problem solving evident in every intervention, ill-equipped environments and occupations like having a warm shower were made possible with your knowledge, kindness and determination. I felt respected 

To the two speech and language therapists who, worked on my swallowing, I remember you coming back week after week to try again, your words of encouragement when I could not swallow, and those facials that were beyond your work remit but very much appreciated. I felt cared about.

To the countless nurses, nursing assistants, ward managers and domestic staff in intensive care, and on ward 6 at the Freeman.  I remember you taking the time to plait my hair, and help manage it when it started to fall out.  Accompanying me to scans, wiping my tears, holding the phone when I had no strength, so I could speak to family, taking me off the ward in my hospital bed, to see the outside and feel the fresh air on my face, writing in my ITU diary so when was well enough I could read and understand a little of what happened to me. For sharing stories, and news from the outside world, appropriately sharing parts of your lives, for the Netflix recommendations.  I felt valued 

To the psychologist who visited regularly to help me, managed dark and low thoughts at a time I wanted to give up. I felt heard.

To my consultants secretary Hannah, who always followed up on requests for information from my mum when I was to unwell to remember, for your emails and phone calls since my discharge to arrange appointments and further surgery – I felt a personal touch that is often lost within large organisations.

To Dame Jackie Daniel Chief Executive, and the other women on the broad of Directors for Newcastle hospitals NHS trust, for doing an outstanding job on leading an outstanding NHS Trust as certified by the CQC, and by my 9 month stay in the care of your trust.   I agree whole heartedly with the CQC report, some how a culture of true compassion resides throughout your staff groups, this comes from compassionate leadership that values its staff. 

My experience of James Cook University Hospital was a little different, and I have to be honest in my experiences, the culture is very different.  I remember being moved wards a lot, poor communication with family, and restrictive practices that often felt like you were not seen as an individual, just a bed occupant.  However there were many exceptions to this and thank-yous to be made.

To the Dr who ordered me a curry because she could just see I needed a pick me up. 

To the ward manager and staff nurse who took the time to listen to my concerns, and tried to resolved them. 

To the ward staff that took the time to chat, pushed me down to the chapel and came back for me later so I could get some peace from the busyness of the ward.

To the women who worked in the shop, and help move things, but also let me learn how to manoeuvre in tight spaces as I learnt to use my electric chair, and recognised the improvement over time.

To the trainee Chaplin who visited at a time I was in isolation, and shared her remarkable story, and listen and sat with me. 

To the women on the patient liaison services, who responded to my many emails and tried to resolved my concerns around restrictive practises. 

To the Occupational therapist who understood, I didn’t need dressing practise or to attend breakfast club, but a quiet space to focus on writing my blog and the presentation I gave to a conference from my hospital bed.

To the woman from liaison psychiatry who I had weekly phone calls with to make sense of traumatic thoughts and memories of my time in intensive care. 

To Jane and Fiona my union reps who worked on my behalf to ensure my rights as a worker in the NHS effected by covid 19 were recognised, and catered for.

Thank you for shining a light and demonstrating that despite a culture that for me is not patient focused, you listened, you were kind, you noticed, you cared. 

To the incredible women I shared a six bedded bay with for 3 months of my life, you amaze me with your strength, understanding, and camaraderie.  Hearing a persons story is inspiring, witnessing its development is a privilege, thank you for sharing.  We had each others back, were able to sense when space was needed. I will always treasure this very odd time in my life and use it as a tool to remember even in a woman’s most darkest, weakest moments she is strong and holds a willingness to push back and find herself again.  As I think back to this time I am reminded of a favourite quote of mine. 

“Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied.”

Millicent Fawcett

Once home requiring full time care, there are many women to thank. 

To the carers that visited three times a day, of which at times I had issues with, feeling a burden, not heard and rushed.  Again there were exceptions to this. Carers that truly cared, took their time despite the absurd working conditions these women work under, showing compassion and joy in their work.  

Most carers that work in peoples homes are managed by care agencies that are privately own. Care-workers and the work they do are not valued by society, it is classed as unskilled,  but believe me, there is so much skilled involved, to do it right.  Most carers are only paid for the time they are scheduled to be in a persons home, not their entire shift and travel like those that work in a hospital or care home.  I can’t help but wonder if caring was a  male dominated profession would these work conditions be tolerated?   

To Vicky, Rosie and all the staff at Tees Nero physiotherapy, for taking me on, when others had given up, for your belief and determination that I would walk again, for the banter, belly laughs.  I would not be here upstairs in my house writing this without you all, I will forever be grateful.

To Sarah her mum and the other ladies I’ve meant during physio and hydro, for your knowing smiles, and words of encouragement. 

Finally to the amazing women I am so privileged to have in my life. 

The incredible online occupational therapy community who, sent my mum and partner messages of support when I was very ill, and when I was well enough to engage, sent me and those I shared a hospital bay with letters of encouragement and care packages. 

To Jennifer, my mother in law Colleen, Auntie Sue, Godmother Pam, Friend Jo  Who regularly called my mum when I was in intensive care, giving her the strength to carry on in which must have been the most difficult time, particularly during a world pandemic. 

To my sister in law Amy, and step mum Linda, for mucking in, and becoming part-time carers, giving my husband and mother well deserved breaks. 

To Kirstie, Kelly, Nichola, Rachael Jo and Janine for always being there for me and Anthony. For your Face-Times at a drop of a hat, just to listen to a rant.  For random gifts in the post that put a smile on my face. For the timely visits to ease the chaos , and the free Indian head massages.  But most of all for your friendship.

To the OTalk and AbleOTUK team members for your inspirational work and commitment to the profession and for the opportunitites being part of these groups of women has given me. I am beyond privileged to know and work with.

To my amazing niece Lyra, for your energy, you’re pure sassiness, and humour that motivates me to keep on going. 

To the women most of which I had never met before at what was the most enjoyable hendo weekend away, and the first time I have been anywhere without my husband or mum over night since being discharged.  What you didn’t know was the struggle it took for me to get there.  I had heard on the Monday that Sue, a lady I shared a bay with at James Cook had passed away and it shook me to the core. I didn’t want to go, I didn’t think I had the strength to be on my own, without Anthony, I didn’t want to feel a burden, that compromises had to be made for me to be there.  What I found which I should have know with it being Beccis hendo, was a group of women, that were accepting that didn’t see me and the wheelchair as an issue or a barrier, that included me in everything.  I heard stories of hard working women, holding things together during the last two years, juggling family life and work, some who had made life changing decisions.  We laughed a lot, drank a bit too much, and got covered in glitter,  Thank-you for reminding me how incredibly resourceful women are, and for your kindness, at a time I really needed it. 

To the reader- thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this, please share your thoughts and share this years theme #BreakTheBias, take a picture of yourself with your arms crossed and post it on social media.

And most finally to my Mum the woman that has always been there, always fought for me, always supported my choices, my ambitions, my dreams.  You are one incredible lady who chooses in her retirement to continue to offer her knowledge, skills and expertise to anyone who needs it.  Thank-you for teaching me how to be a woman with strength, integrity, for showing me that caring, and helping other women to succeeded is the best type of woman to be.


Blog Post

How a random survey phone call, helped me un-muddle my thoughts and conclude. – Health and Social Care Services are not patient focused and occupational therapy is compliant with this. 

Acknowledgement this blog is a personal opinion piece based on my own experiences of a life living with a Disability, from birth. My personal thoughts about the profession I work in and the almost 2 year journey I have been through in recovering from COVID-19 and the devastating affects it has had on both my body and my thinking. This is no way to criticism of any individuals who have helped me along the way it is an overall observation of the system.  I recognise that the themes and experiences talked about here do not necessary represent the thoughts and experiences of others. 

Thursday 2nd February 2022, around 10.15am, I was still in bed, working on my laptop, uploading some clothes I was selling on eBay.  My mum had not long arrived to help me get to Hydro, she was in the living room when the phone rang. 

I answered my phone, to hear a polite female voice, she began explaining the reasons for the call, a survey about television and radio – what access I had and how important it is to me.  I’m finding that I am craving conversation, maybe because I rely on others to help me leave the house, so any social interaction, feels exciting. Something I need to reflect a-little more on I think.  

So of course I said yes I’ll answer your questions, they were fairly straight forward with an emphasis on how reliant I was and how meaningful television and radio is to me and how I accessed it.  Of course I referred to watching television as a meaningful occupation. (Eyes roll she’s such a geek) 

As the survey came to an end there was a few questions about my education level, area of work and so on.   When I said I was an occupational therapist, the lady  enthusiastically said ‘oh I love occupational therapists’.  I used to work within rehabilitation and worked with lots of OT’s they are amazing.  

We chatted some more and I disclosed my journey of recovery and that I’m beginning to think about going back to work as a wheelchair user.  We finished the last few questions and as we were ending the conversation she said,  I don’t normally do this but I wonder if you have heard of my husband?  

She told me is name, it was not a name I was familiar with,  she explained he was a wheelchair-user after an accident,  but went on to become a Professor and was responsible for developing ‘The social model of disability’.  ‘Oh well of course I know the social model’ I said.  We chatted a little more and ended the conversations with pleasantry’s.

My mind was blown. A quick google later and yes it was confirmed Mike Oliver, who passed away in 2019 was married twice.  First in 1972 to Judith Hunt, (desperately trying to remember did she say Judith yes I think it was Judith)  This guardian obituary gives you an over view of Mikes life and his impact on the disability movement.

I began to wonder why don’t I know his name, the model I know well, but not the history behind it. This started a few hours of going down the internet rabbit hole,  clicking on links I found, reading and learning more.  Better than my usual internet rabbit holes, which normally consist of looking at videos of cats or ear-wax being removed. 

Mike was an activist and one we really should know about. He was very critical of the Disability discrimination act, and of many disability charities, as this article on the UK Disability History Month website explains . 

He referred to the phrase parasite people”, once used by the disabled activist Paul Hunt to describe those who furthered their own careers on the backs of the struggles of disabled people to lead ordinary lives”.

This struck me, in regards to lots of things I have been contemplating recently.   

My interaction with health and care professionals, and they’re hopes, aspirations and expectations of my recovery. 

All the thoughts about returning to work as a wheelchair user, and what that might look like. 

My reflection on the difference life before covid 19, and the limitations to an extent my hidden disabilities had on my quality of life, compared to having a very visual disability now with a compelling story of covid 19 and a long hospital admission that grabs peoples attention and in turn often their sympathy.  

Thinking about the things I hid before, the things I felt before, and a desperate feeling of wanting to be free, now and then but for very different reasons.  

My dismay and disappointment in criteria, diagnostic lead services and systems that does not see me as a whole person but as individual health issues/conditions that needed to be fixed.  That are often assessed, reviewed, treated separately.

Still this idea that I need to be cured. Rather that being asked what I want and what I’m comfortable with, with some questions about what was I like before, but not feeling like anyone actually listened. No-one taking the time to have an overview. 

Thoughts about being approached to talk about my experiences at events. Its really nice and has help give me a focus. I want people to hear this story in the hope they will learn something.  Yet when I think about going back to a profession I have invested most of my life to, I keep on being reminded of all those barriers that impacted on the delivery of an occupation focused occupational therapy service, that I wanted to, finding instead I had to please others, and ensure we were seen to be doing thing with people, rather than delivering the interventions they needed. 

Barriers very well documented,  including the miss understanding of what it is we do, a profession that claims to be patient focused, but continues to work within systems that are not, and the professions compliance with this. 

My reading about wheelchair provision legislation is a good example. As a profession we should be looking at what are the occupations our clients, wants, needs and are required to do?  but the criteria within this legislation does not take that in to account, instead it focuses on what your needs are within the environment of your own home, and this alone. Because of my existing disabilities and to save my energy I needed an electric chair.  to really have freedom outside of the house, Thankfully I’m in a privilege position to have family members who could both advise and afford to purchase one privately.   

As occupational therapists, and because of the social model of disability we know it’s the environment we are in, that as the biggest impact on individuals  managing their own needs and wants. It impacts on how we feel, and the choices we make.  Your home environment is a space you spend a lot of time in. You become skilled at managing that environment and change it to meet your needs. But it’s when you’re outside of that environment, when things are out of your control that we become dis able to do the things we want, need and are required to do.  I am including not just the physical environments here, the sensory environments we are in equally impacts, but the solution to manage this is often to create separate spaces.   

How do we firstly honour Mike and his work?

There are those that argue the social model is an outdated ideology,  this paper concludes 

‘the British social model has been an excellent basis for a political movement, but is now an inadequate grounding for a social theory. This social model was a modernist project, built on Marxist foundations. The world, and social theory, has passed it by, and we need to learn from other social movements, and from new theoretical perspectives, particularly those of post-structuralism and post- modernism. We believe that the claim that everyone is impaired, not just disabled people, is a far-reaching and important insight into human experience, with major implications for medical and social intervention in the twenty-first century.’ 

The social model of disability: an outdated ideology? The Journal Research in Social Science and DisabilityVolume 2, pp. 9-28 (2002). Authors Tom Shakespeare, Department of Sociology, University of Newcastle.Nicholas Watson, Department of Nursing Studies, University of Edinburgh. Accessed 6th February 2022. 

For me the social model has done so much and it was very right for its time, and still holds clear ideas and theory I truly believe in.  Public spaces now by law need to comply to legislation around access, which would not be the case without it, however I do acknowledge that there is still some way to go. 

The Idea that perhaps we all have strengths and barriers, made up by a number of factors.  By understanding and acknowledging our own and those around us and by promoting understanding and tolerance (if that’s the right word) of each others.  May lead to a better experience for us all . This has been explored within leadership programs I have engaged in.  Acknowledging  psychological therapies about personality traits .  Further thinking about the environment, technologies and terms we use, that may have an impact on our thoughts, and experiences.

It’s attitudes that are the next challenge.  Attitudes within society as a whole, but also within health and social care professions and settings.  Having to do something to accommodate someone else, sounds simple but in reality it is challenging for everyone.

Take simply being asked to wearing a mask in public. 

I struggle a-lot with guilt, and how my activism may come across, I often apologise for myself,  the idea of “parasite people”, sits uncomfortably with me. In away has my lived experiences and the platform I have a privilege? 

Am I furthering my own career on the backs of the struggles of disabled people? I need to make a living, I’m accustom  to a wage that enables me to live comfortably.  At times I feel I am letting too much of me be public –  I’m not sure I want to share all aspects of my life.  

Stories are what history remembers.  History shows that those who stood up, fought against something when those in power were opposed or didn’t seem to care.   We admire them, write about them, make statues of them. Yet still we continue to only listen when the fight gets real, people lose their lives, their jobs, they’re freedom. 

Has health and social care loss its focus?  The profession of nursing, became an aspirational career after Florence Nightingale understood and showed the world that cleanliness save lives, and that nursing was about keeping things clean, keeping people fed, washed, but that is now not seem as a valuable role. Instead cleaning is thought to be a low waged job, and nurses, do paper work, answer the phone, administer medication.  Are left holding the fort when all others go home.

What has happened to my own profession. It is watered down, with stereotypes of expectations.  Within mental health setting the notion that boredom needs to be tackled with entertainment, and that this the role of the Occupational Therapist.   This is not the case in a physical hospital, through-out my 13 months despite not being able to leave my own bed, no body worried about how bored I might be, I had to find ways to entertain myself,  and often at my own expense.

The profession needs to wise up, get back to its roots, review the social model and begin to implement it, whist having an understanding of its critics. 

I recently wrote a blog after the Royal College of Occupational Therapist released their new brand this included new ethics, ethics that I was intrigued by and felt held the values that I hold.  What also changed was the logo and the loss of a symbol, that again in todays modern understanding of disability rights could be argued as no longer representative. Yet the removal caused so much passion people questioned why the symbol had gone, unable to move on.

If only we were that passionate about ensuring that the profession of occupational therapy is both understood and practiced without compromise,  if only we were that passionate about fighting and talking and campaigning to our leaders. Of the power of true occupational therapy and if we could break through the constraints of still a dominative medical model we could really start to make change, Really start to see services that met the needs of the people rather than the needs of the professionals that work in it.  Of course this can not be done alone. We must make a noise, take the time to understand and engage meaningfully with those who have the power to make real changes.

Where I’m I to go next? The future is unclear, I’m open to new opportunities challenges, how that fits with managing this within the new reality, is yet to be discovered. 

Rachel Booth-Gardiner 

Blog Post

Accessible Statements Confusion? Are We Still Missing the Point?

Acknowledgment –  This blog post is an opinion piece formed from personal experience, and reading on the subject over a number of years. Its aim is to stimulate thought and respectful debate. Throughout this blog I use the term disabled/ disability, by this I mean but not exclusive too – Anyone with lived experiences of disability, learning needs/disability, mental ill health and chronic illness, whist also acknowledging that for some this term does not reflect their experiences.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

By law (Disability Discrimination Act) 1995 businesses and organisations need to make their facilities accessible, and following the 2018 Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations Accessibility regulations mean public sector organisations have a legal duty to make sure their websites and mobile applications meet accessibility requirements.  Public sector websites and mobile apps must now also be accessible and have an accessibility statement published.  

Its in business owners (however small) own interest to ensure their buildings are accessible, not just by installing an access ramp but also ensuring they comply with all the stipulations that have been drawn up under law. 

The confusion I found with the introduction of accessible statements,  was that they only apply to making the website/app space accessible. Missing the element I was looking for when visiting these sites. Information about how accessible physical spaces are with clear information available, on websites/apps.  

Often I would look up a place I wanted to visit, to see how accessible it was, to find the accessible statement only refers to the webpage, which is really important.  However the information I wanted was lacking.  I might come across ‘accessible toilet ‘available or contact us with your access needs.  By law I know what the minimum standards are but what does ‘accessible’ really mean?  

What is accessible to one person may not be to another.  Meaning the information provided is key to individuals making an informed decision about how accessible that facility is to them.

Before being a wheelchair user, the information I wanted to know was, what the furniture was like, it might sound odd to you, but comfort is important. How high are the seats and tables, could I stand independently from them without drawing attention to myself? Is there good back support? What’s the parking like? How far will I need to walk? Is there an accessible toilet because other toilets are often low and accessible ones are higher and have rails I can use to help stand up, if there is stairs how deep are they? Is there a rail on both sides to hold? Now I am using a wheelchair, an ‘accessible toilet’ meant nothing to me, I had questions,  How is it accessible?  Will it meet my needs?  Often having to email or ring for further information.  Imagine every time you wanted to leave the house having to think about every element of your day.  Will there be steps, will I be able to use the toilet,  reach what I need, have space to get round? 

There are many great apps and websites out there trying to provide and improve information about how accessible a place is, but this relies on you knowing about these apps and websites.  For me I became increasingly frustrated by the lack of information on websites and social media accounts of individual businesses and organisations, I wanted to visit.   Why should the person with the access needs do all the research? Wouldn’t it be great to lookup the information you need quickly, and without the fuss or having to make a phone call/email for more information? 

Not everywhere is going to be accessible for everyone, but by not providing clear and detailed information, you are potentially missing out on business and not being inclusive, in 2022 we all want to be inclusive right?  

I began to challenge businesses and public places about the access information that was available. Asking for pictures of their ‘Accessible toilets’, descriptions of other areas and photo’s. Challenging the lack of detail in the information I found. Also challenging some of the ableist way things were described. In March I am going away for the first time without my husband since being a wheelchair users with friends for a hen do, the place looked great, its set up for groups and has rooms with multiple beds, ideal for hen dos. The website had some access information but it wasn’t clear, a few emails later and I felt ok I can do this and I know my friends will also help if I need it.

But one statement in the email correspondence struck me right in the face. They explained that the ground floor was fully accessible to a wheelchairs user and clarified my questions about rugs and positioning of furniture. When describing the accessible bedroom which also had multiple beds, but enough turning space. It was explained there was a fully accessible bathroom and provided a picture, then went on to say it also had an other shower room which was not accessible for a carer. In all the other rooms people are expected to share the bathroom but in the accessible space there are separate bathrooms for the able and disabled?

Just think for a moment what that statement might suggest to a person with a disablilty?

I realise this is a complex topic and often there is need for spaces that are separate to meet peoples individual needs, but there is something to be said for segregation being acceptable even seen as progress when it comes to the accommodation of disability in modern times.

Please see this blog sites Accessible statement here

Blog Post

The Royal College Occupational Therapy (RCOT) – New Brand Reflection – I like it and the Phoenix needed to go.

Acknowledgment –  This blog post is a personal opinion piece of initial thoughts of observations of comments on twitter, with only google research done in effort to appease my thoughts from swimming around my head.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Earlier in the year I set myself a challenge to challenge all my initial thoughts the following hopefully demonstrates my thought process.

Twitter observations – a good buzz about new strategies, vision and brand, well done RCOT your have listen to feedback and made changes, some concern that the images are grainy when viewed on smart phone,  most see themselves represented,  apart from perhaps those from a LGBTQIA+ community, with acknowledgment that is can be hard to represent, adding useful advice around including symbols associated with the community to some of the images. There was in someway understandably a lot of disappoint in the lost of the Phoenix in logo change. 

Challenge to the Feedback.

RCOT and new CEO asked us what we wanted –  we said change.  

Having volunteered within various roles throughout my 18 years as a member, my frustration was always hitting barriers and a reluctance to modernism.  My feedback was I want you to be more open, more engaging with members looking after their needs and embracing their ideas.  I want you to be a voice to fight for rights of those we deliver a service for, and for those that work in this field.  I want to feel heard, feel involved and part of something and I want others to feel that too – this for me is most reflected in the new values with; 

‘We Elevate
We lift up and support others to be and do their best.
We are accessible and collaborative.
We are united and move forward together, even if we sometimes disagree.’ our-values

‘Even if we sometimes disagree’  or in the words of Jo Cox MP “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Thoughts Everyone wants change but our expectations will be based first on our experiences and our values, the skill is to put those to one side at some point during the process. A skill perhaps well practise within the occupational therapy profession?

Criticism is second nature, because nothing will be exactly how you as an individual envisioned it, that perhaps is the point of collaboration?  Change is scary, even when we want it.  The task of an organisation is to take on board what people have said, and find a balance, but at some point listening needs to turn to action, or we would always be listening and not doing.  As OT’s are we not fans of ‘doing’?

When seeing the logo ‘but I love the phoenix, it’s part of our history, it represents raising from the ashes’. 

Feelings I am upset I never said get ride of the phoenix, that’s part of my identity!    

Thoughts – Why is part of my identity what are the facts?

Action – Looked up definitions of Phoenix in a dictionary in this case Collins English Dictionary on line Collins English Dictionary. Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers  Link here

New Logo – rights to download and use as a member

In summery – with highlight words to consider.


  •  A phoenix is an imaginary bird which, according to ancient stories, burns itself to ashes every five hundred years and is then born again.
  • If you describe someone or something as a phoenix, you mean that they return again after seeming to disappear or be destroyed. [literary] Out of the ashes of the economic shambles, a phoenix of recovery can arise.
  • A legendary Arabian bird said to set fire to itself and rise anew from the ashes every 500 years
  • A person or thing of surpassing beauty or quality
  • A city in central Arizona, capital city of the state, on the Salt River
  • Egyptian Mythology a beautiful, lone bird which lives in the Arabian desert for 500 or 600 years and then sets itself on fire, rising renewed from the ashes to start another long life: a symbol of immortality
  • Word forms: Latin genitive Phoenicis a mythical bird of , and to rise from its ashes in the freshness of youth and live through another cycle of years: often an emblem of immortality or of reborn idealism or home.
  •  a person or thing of peerless beauty or excellence; paragon
  • a person or thing that has become renewed or restored after suffering calamity or apparent annihilation

Thought – I wonder is there is an ism of Phoenix? 

Action – found definition – Phoenixism in British English NOUN business

‘The process of making a business insolvent in order to evade paying debts and then setting the business up again under a new name’ Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

Thought  – ‘But lots of health professions use the phoenix’, 

Action  Googled ‘Health symbols and Phoenix’ (see below image)

Observed – Links to websites with words like Rebirth, Beauty, Gives Health, Holistic.  

Thought  –  Is the idea of using something that is reborn for ashes a good symbol to represent health professions?  Or is this another example of the healthy/able not understanding the complexities of being ill/disabled?  

Thought – Is this Ablism?  ‘discrimination in favour of able-bodied people’  

Action – reviewing the words used in definitions of a phoenix and its association with health care, and how they could be interrupted.  

  • The Phoenix sets itself on fire – Blame? 
  • Described as imaginary – Not being believed? 
  • Returning after being destroyed, missing – disability is destroying, there are not positives. (context is important here)
  • Beauty and Quality – Valuing being perfect and getting back to before rather that content and fulfilled with what is reality now. 
  • Lone bird –  Alone
  • Renewed life, that is fresh, Restored – All words challenged in modern recovery literature. 
  • Insolvent, Evade paying debts, Setting up again under a new name – deception?

Thought Occupational Therapy for me is about working with the person to find, their beauty, their strength, their values, living their life their way, despite the complexities of ill health and disabilities.   

Conclusion the notion of the ‘phoenix’ despite my love for it, formed from a simple understanding rather that the complexities of real life –  it’s time to let go. 

However if the green had gone that would be another story!!!  


Since writing this blog it has had a lot of comments, mainly on twitter, some questioning why RCOT made the decision to move away from the Phoenix in its brand, having looked further into it I found some information on the RCOT history page

The Phoenix

Embodying the principle of regeneration, the Phoenix has been used as a badge for occupational therapists since the 1930s.

However, research showed that while the Phoenix was a symbol of pride for some RCOT members, it wasn’t fully understood or recognised by all members or external audiences. We realised that our brand needed to focus on what matters most – the positive outcomes we achieve for the people we work with.

Our brand retains this spirit of regeneration, but it’s now rooted in the challenges we help people overcome. Most importantly, it’s more accessible to people from all backgrounds and walks of life.


Blog Post, Occupational Therapy

My take on the Royal College of Occupational Therapists conference June 19th -20th 2017

IMG_6854What a fun, productive, motivating, challenging and tiring two days that was.

I try to draw out the positives in everything but today’s blog will start with a few negative points.

This was the first year, the now “Royal” college of occupational therapists held its conference in the IIC in Birmingham,  the venue is bright and modern, however the layout is confusing,  all areas are accessible but often using a lift rather than the stairs meant a longer walk,  which made getting to workshops within a timely manner difficult.  There was no pre booking for sessions before conference.  Many people were turned away, and often because of the distances and layout of the building,  you did not have time to get to another session. – My feed back to RCOT will highlight these two issues heavily.

This years conference sponsors also brought some controversy.  Capita, a company which carries out Personal Independence Payments assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.  Capita recently placed an advert in OT news which has upset some occupational therapists as it has used the tag line ‘This is what you trained for’.  Before and during the conference occupational therapists and those who have had experiences of PIP assessments have been using twitter and the hash tag #NotWhatITrainedFor, to express their disappointment with Capita’s association with the royal college.

Personally this relationship sits uncomfortably with me,  As a person with a disability still in receipt of DLA awaiting my letter for a PIP assessment,  but also as a occupational therapist who has worked with many people that have had poor experiences of the PIP assessment, which has caused unnecessary stress, and feelings of low self worth.  As Occupational Therapists we are best placed to assess how a persons disability/ mental health problem or learning disability impacts on the persons ability to function, and what level of support is required to live a life that is meaningful to that individual, but I don’t believe the PIP assessment system, uses evidence based occupation focused assessments to determined its out comes.  As Occupational Therapists we must advocate for those we work with,  in my experiences working with those with mental health problems this assessment has only added stress and worry and in some cases severe mental distress leading to a relapse and readmission to hospital rather them giving support.

I feel strongly as a profession and professional body we should be advocating for those we work with to ensure fairness. A slight word of warning tho,  I am concerned that some of what I have seen on social media condemning this relationship has become personal, towards those Occupational therapists that are employed by Capita.  Let’s learn from the recent general election campaigns,  and take a leaf out of Jeremy Corbyn’s book.  I encourage a constructive an open dialogue with the Royal College of occupational therapists about this issue.  But please I ask let’s not run a negative campaign that focuses on personal attacks.  This just distracts from the issue.

This year I funded myself which gave me the freedom to attend sessions and workshops that interested me and were not just purely work related.

The opening plenary – The first Keynote speaker was Paul McGee I’m guessing a professional motivational speaker, he is also known as the SUMO Guy. ‘Shut up and move on’ he told some funny stories and encouraged us to look for open doors, but in my opinion did not bring anything to the conference.   The second Plenary Speaker was Dr Winnie Dunn from the University of Kansas, she is  internationally known as an expert in the field of sensory processing in everyday life.  As a novice in sensory processing – this gave me a foundation in this theory.  She  emphasised not using sensory assessments to label clients based on their scores, and explained that every one has a sensory profile.  –  this is an area I know I need to learn more about.  – perhaps a challenge for this year.

Session 3 Education – Teresa Rushton from Coventry University – Understanding the experiences of occupational therapy students with additional support requirements, whilst studying BSc (Hons) in occupational therapy,  this was a small study with Occupational therapy students and their experiences whilst on placement.   Although its important to research and understand the experiences of students in this manner I found myself feeling disappointed that it focused on the negative experiences. It saddens me that 11 years on from qualifying, students and educators are still finding making reasonable adjustments for someone who needs it a challenge.  When will the profession recognised that those with disabilities have so much to offer?

FullSizeRender 2

Session 24 – Introducing RCOT’s new career development Framework:  – this framework has nine levels of skills covering clinical, educational, research, or managerial roles.   The aim is to cover all possible kinds of careers in occupational therapy. This is a great resource one I need to spend some time mapping myself against. If your using this tool please let RCOT know what you think on twitter using the hashtag #RCOTCareerFramework.

Professor Diane Cox gave the Casson memorial lecture this year ‘Life as an occupational being’. She gave an overview of occupational therapy its origins and meaning, reminding us of the importance of occupation  “Occupation is as old as humanity” (Reed et al, 2012) and from Brock (1934): “Occupation is not a secondary matter. It is a primary need of an individual’s life”.  So we must keep occupation central in our practice and research. I was struck with a quote she shared from Elisabeth Casson in 1941- ‘rehabilitation needs serious attention at present’, does this quote still stand today?   Diane went on to explain although occupational therapy has been voted as the least likely job to be taken over by Robot’s, on the surface it can be seen as simple, she urged us to combat this common misconception by getting work and research then  Published Published Published!! If you would like to read more about this lecture please see the Otalk blog here.

IMG_6796One of the sessions I was most looking forward to attending was session 63 – Occupational Therapy – a feminist profession? – Heather Davidson from the University of Salford, explained there is very little written on this subject.  We explored the links between occupational therapy and feminism, that it was a movement started by women, to empower people.  However is it still seen as a white middle class profession for young ladies?  Some of the debate and conversation within the workshop turn to men in the profession and how they might feel in the minority –  which as a feminist I found frustrating.


Something else new this year and that I was looking forward to, was the occupation stations – these were hands on workshops exploring occupations like bird watching, crochet, bead making and origami. These were very popular sessions and unfortunately I could not get in to one,  however from twitter and chatting with those that did attend, they were excellent sessions – lets not forget our roots of doing things with people.


Dr Jennifer Creek gave the closing plenary the empire strikes back ; learning from the practise of Occupational Therapists working in the margins, she as always was thought provoking  and challenged us to think about our practise – has it became static and have we lost our focus on occupation. Jennifer took us on a journey from the origins of our profession and the rise in women’s movement from the late 19th century, to what it is in present day,  she ask us to pay more attention to practice that is happening on the margins if we want to seek answers to some of the major challenges we face currently, and want to discover places where creativity happens.

We were then treated to a hilarious presentation given by Tina Coldham a mental health campaigner – last night an OT saved my life,  reminding us that talking with and discovering what is important to the person you are working with can really make that difference.

Julia Scott chief executive of the Royal college of occupational therapists them gave her usual take home message,  this year she urged us not to abbreviate our profession to its initials, She believes by using our full title this will reduce the confusion between occupational therapy and occupational therapist and also give us more standing within the medical community –  Julia I will endeavour to do this and have try to throughout this blog (however to save characters on twitter I will at times still use OT)

I get so much from going to conference and understand it is a privilege to be able to attend, however I would urge those that were not able to go to do two things,  check out the #COT2017 on twitter for all the goings on and to read blogs that were written live at the event – all available on the Otalk blog here.   For me as an OT geek its an opportunity to learn, be challenged but also to network and socialise with those friends I have made over the years,  and a time when some of us from the Otalk team get to see each other in person.

Although I learnt lots, my favourite was spending time with friends.  You know you have had a good night out when you wake up the next morning with a green balloon attached to your walking stick.

Blog Post, Broken Leg

The broken leg Part 3 – Six months on and getting back to work.

For regular readers of my blog you will know I fell down the stairs and broke my right hemi leg just before christmas last year, however if your new to this blog you can read more here Part 1 and Part 2.

Since my last blog post a lot has happened, however the effects of the brake still have a an impact on carrying out daily occupations, and managing my emotions.

My biggest frustration has been foot wear,  my right foot and leg remain very swollen despite daily stretches and exercises given to me by the physio. This has limited me to one pair of shoes.  It surprises me how something as small as not being able to choose foot wear to match what your wearing or how you feel, can effect your mood.  I have not wanted to go to the pub with friends, felt I have not looked professional at work,  and just broke down in tears at the thought of needing to dress up.

One large change has been my bathroom, I have had a wet room put in.  You can read a blog I wrote about it here for Impey showers  In short it has changed my life,  feeling safe in the bathroom, has given me my confidence back.  Plus it looks amazing.


In the weeks leading up to returning to work I set myself a number of challenges to increase the amount of walking I was doing,  however the weather was rubbish so I had to be creative. Museums and art galleries were good spaces to use with plenty of places to sit for a rest.  The apple watch as come in handy again,  as you can monitor how much walking and exercised you do. I have used it to set myself targets and increase them weekly, I find it motivating.

I’ve been back at work for 6 weeks now,  the first 2 doing half days building up to full days, I’m now work 4 days a week.  I can walk around inside unaided however still feel the need to use a walking stick outside.  I’m trying to lift my foot fully off the ground to prevent tripping however I have had a few close calls and without the stick to support me I would a fallen again.

I missed work whilst I was off,  but found getting back into the routine difficult, I found myself forgetting things,  not being able to concentrate in meetings,  and overwhelmed with emails and new responsibilities.  I questioned if i could still do the job feeling inadequate most days. However my team has been very supportive, there were days I felt like not going in, but stuck with it.  By about week 5 these feelings of inadequacies began to lessen.

Last week I attended the COT conference in Harrogate,  a big challenge both physically and for my attention span.  I decided to take the wheelchair just incase I needed it,  but set myself a goal to walk as much as I could.  I felt a little stupid walking a round with an empty wheelchair, however there is no safer place to do that, than at an OT conference,  full of friends and colleagues from both real life and those I have met online.  I had lots of positive chats with people about my blogs and experiences, and as always the conference itself gave inspiration  and hope for the future of the profession.  I will return to work with fresh eyes to face to next challenge.  However physically it was difficult, determined not to complain I took pain killers, ploughed through and on the odd occasion had a quick cry to myself (but that currently is normal).


The last six months as been one of the biggest challenges so far.  To readers I would like you to take away two messages.   Remember to work with the whole person,  assessing how whatever you’re treating them for effects them both physically and mentally.  Trauma no matter how small can have lasting effects,  the trauma might not just be the event that started off the need for your input, it can also be the process of getting through it,  don’t be part of the trauma be part of the recovery.

Rachel x

Blog Post, Broken Leg, Occupational Therapy

The broken leg part 2 – What does ‘Independent’ really mean?


 A dictionary definition of the word independent shows it has many meanings, including ‘not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself.’  ‘Not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.’ Not relying on another or others for aid or support, and in Politics. a person who votes for candidates, measures, etc., in accordance with his or her own judgment and without regard to the endorsement of, or the positions taken by, any party.’

But in the world of occupational therapy what does independent mean, to the therapist and to the person they are providing a service for?  This is something I have been thinking a lot about as I recover from a broken leg.

This recovery has been complicated by my existing disability, a right hemiplegia from cerebral palsy after a lack of oxygen to the brain during my birth.  The last three months have been some of the toughest of my life so far, and it’s all been down to my ability to come to terms with the lack of independence.

The issues of independence first began to play on my mind, after sadly a poor experience of occupational therapy whist in hospital.  I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to go in to this is to detail, but I will say I was concerned with their interpretation of independence.

After my operation I was having difficulty standing and began to transfer using a banana board, however my right leg was stiff and heavy with the extra weight of the pot, I could not transfer without someone holding it.

This was observed by one of the four OT’s I saw over the 16 days I was in hospital.  On discharge I ran in to difficulty and rang the OT to come out to do a home visit to reassess to my needs.  We disagreed on the help and assistance I required.

This mainly focused on the OT’s opinion I had independently transferred from the hospital bed to a chair.  I pointed out that the OT had held my leg during this transfer.  For me this was not an independent transfer. I must stress this is just my opinion and how the treatment I received felt.  But the OT service saw a broken leg and not the added complication for the hemiplegia and bariatric needs.

Discharge was not planned on admission, and unfortunately, in my opinion discharge from hospital was delayed due to the lack for forward planning by the OT team.  At this stage I cut ties with the OT service and sourced my own equipment paying for it myself, getting it in a timely manner with the help of some friends and family.

Interestingly enough whist in hospital. I was asked by the OTalk team to become a full team member. The first twitter chat I supported was ironic.  It explored if OTs within acute hospitals assessed and treated the mental health needs of their clients.  This again in my opinion was an area not addressed by any profession during my admission. #Otalk Blog

The affect of the broken leg on my mental health has been the most difficult part, those who are familiar with hemiplegia will also know that it is not just a physical disability and some of the symptoms include feeling depressed, heightened emotional sensitivity with inability to handle stressful situations.

Whist in hospital I found it incredibly difficult to manage my emotions, this was possibly made harder by the fact I was in over Christmas and New Year.  Social media, the tool I love became a focus of paranoia.  I made some mistakes in taking this out on people I love, something I am still dealing with the repercussions of 3 months on.  I was tearful on a daily basis’s and of course bored beyond belief. Friends and family did their best to visit and entertain me, during this time.  I am an extremely lucky person to have people in my life that have managed the moods, the tears and the frustrations.

Admitting and asking for help can be a hard, as a person with a disability you spend your life fighting systems and working hard to achieve despite the obstacles.  This might be some little victories like having a trampoline party as child because you were not invited to one earlier in the year as that’s child’s parents did not think you would be able to use the trampoline.  Or the large things like finish a degree, despite being turned down for your first placement because the educators had preconceptions about your physical abilities.

Some readers maybe thinking, I thought this blog was about independence, so sorry if I have gone off topic slightly, but I wanted to set the scene.

Those that have studied or have read about independence within OT will understand about codependence.  You might question is anyone truly independent? We all rely on others for something.  I found myself asking questions like, If I can use the toilet without assistance but need to be wheeled to or use a walking frame to get to the toilet is this independent??

Where does choice come in to this? can you or should you chose which parts of your life you want to be independent.  One example I have for this is prior to the fall, I would only wear flat slip on shoes without socks, as I find manipulating my hemi foot in to socks and shoes difficult.  However, after the operation my foot and leg have been very swollen. I’ve brought a wide fitting pair of shoes but due to the type of shoe I need to wear socks with them.

My first visit to the hospital physiotherapist, (10 days after having the pot removed) we had a discussion about putting my shoes and socks on, her priority for me to do this myself, however putting on this type of shoe is not something I would not normally do, although its something I know I need to work on it was not my priority at that time.

Over the past 3 months my independence abilities have changed on a daily basis some days I was more independent than others.  The equipment I’ve needed to assist me has changed dramatically from my initial thinking.

Facing getting out and about was one of the biggest challenges, for both myself and my family.  I became dependent on them when ever I wanted to leave the house, and a trip out needed to be planned in detail, much like a new mother with a new born baby.  I found I needed to plan longer rest periods than I did before the fall.

Tools like social media and the internet have helped with this I found I liked to look up where we have planed to go in detail, I look at pictures to help me understand the access issues and the distance I might need to walk, the anxiety of the unknown began to consume me.  My current challenge is to begin to go out without the safety net of the family, although I still require assistance to get my walking frame or wheelchair out of the car, I’m beginning by meeting a friend for lunch.

So I’m independently planning trips out with the toosl available to me, however I still require someone to accompany me, is this independent?

To help me explore independence in the future I’m planning on hosting a #Otalk on the subject on April 12th at 8pm I hope to see you online then.

 Rachel @OT_rach



Blog Post, Broken Leg

The Broken Leg Part 1 – From the other side –  What I have learnt.

For none regular readers of my blog,  I’m a occupational therapist who works for a mental health trust,  but i also have a disability – if you are interested to can read theses below post to give you an insight in to my life before this event.

A week in the life of an occupational therapist with a disability for OT week 2015

#otalk 14th October 2014 hemiplegia

occupational therapy professionals with a disability

What to call this blog, many titles have come to mind as I’m laid staring at a pink wall and clock that says the wrong time and date.

Among the ideas –

  • Thank you Apple watch
  • The waiting game
  • Mothers are the best
  • How small the world can become?
  • Communication feels like the hardest thing to do
  • Beep ………….beep ……………beep


But I settled with from the other side – what have I learnt.   As much I’m hating this experience I’m trying to find the positives.  I’m learning lots that hopefully will improve my practice and maybe that of the the odd blog reader.

What happened  – Sunday 20th Dec 2015 I was busy getting the house ready for hosting a party.  About 11am I was walking down the stairs with the washing when my right foot lost its footing about 4 steps from the bottom, the basket went forward and I went backwards, I heard a cracking sound as I lay there for few seconds to catch my breath, I know I had broken my leg.

My mobile phone was in the washing basket and had actually landed under the foot of the broken leg. Luckily I was wearing my apple watch.  I knew I needed to get the door open before an ambulance came.  My brother has a spare key so a tried him first however he did not answer.  My neighbour had a key, but she has just given birth to a little girl, using the ring feature on the apple watch, I rang her first to make sure she was in, and then some friends who live round the corner.

Whistled I waited for friends to arrive I rang the ambulance, again on the apple watch. I also tried to ring my mum but she was away at a friends, rang my dad to let him know, and then my brother rang me back.  My friends arrived and open the door, my brother shortly after.

Then we waited for the ambulance.  I’ve done a lot of waiting this week, but the three hours waiting laying on the stairs was the worst.  My friends and brother did their best to make me comfortable placing pillows under my head and back.  We tried to stand me twice but the pain was too much.  Laid there I was convinced I would be home in time for the party, (how silly that seems now) so instructed the boys to get the desserts out of the freezer, and told them where they could find something to eat, (I was nil by month of course).  Mum had also rang and set off on the just over 2 hours’ journey from her friend’s house to mine.  She arrived at my house at the exact time same time as the ambulance.

I need to praise the paramedic’s once they arrived. They were so patient and kind. I was in a difficult position on the stairs and had little strength left after supporting my self with my left leg for 3 hours.  They had great problem solving skills and used a slide sheet to move me up the stairs enough to stand on one leg and be move on to a stretcher.

At this point I’m still convinced I’ll be home for the party if not a bit late, so sent a message to everyone, saying I would let them know.

I don’t remember much once we hit the hospital, other than the x-ray showed I had fractured my tibia in several places and also broken bones in the ankle.  I was going to need an operation, they gave my drugs whilst they reset the ankle and then moved me to the ward.  I cancelled the party.

The waiting starts – Its difficult for me to write the next paragraphs, I work in and love what the NHS is, but unfortunately not all care is perfect, and when you’re on the receiving end even the smallest thing can be seen as so wrong and big.

Firstly, I have received some first class care, from a few staff members, these are the things they did that made the difference.

  • Told me their name. (more than once)
  • Stop for a brief chat.
  • Took their time when helping me move, wash or help use the toilet
  • Listen to me
  • Asked what I could do and what I needed help with.
  • Just pop their head in.
  • Told me everything they were about to do before they touch or moved me.
  • Gave me encouragement
  • Made sure things were put back in my reach before they left.
  • Asked if there was anything else they could do for me.


However unfortunately this was not always the case, the most frustrating was communication issues.

When I came on to the ward I was swabbed in the month and nose, no one told me why then at 2.30 in the morning I was woken and moved to a side room, told I had tested positive.  I had to ask for what.  MRSA was the answer. I was given stuff to wash with every day and told I would be re swabbed in 5 days,  by day 7 this had not happened,  I had to asked,  2 days later I had to ask for the result,  I was clear.

From admission I was nil by mouth waiting for an operation, however when the surgeon came round at 10.30 on day 2, I was told I would not be operated on that day.  However, this message did not seem to be passed on to the ward and I was not fed at lunch time, again I had to ask.  I ordered tea, but it never came.  The nil by month went on until day 8, having to remind people every day I was nil by mouth became frustrating, staff were often putting water within my reach and asking if I wanted lunch or not giving me any when I could have it. coupled with the problem of being told I was on/off the list for an operation. Sometimes the nursing staff informed me and offered food,  but often I had to ask.  On one occasion the nursing staff were told at 1pm,  but no one told me until 3.30pm.  I went without food and water unnecessarily many times.

Day 3 I heard the ward round outside my door but they never came in, I complained, but just felt like the buck was passed.  There was not enough time.

Lesson number 1 Not having enough time to communicate with your service user should never be an excuse, you might not have time but it’s likely that’s the one of a few things they do have.

The nil by month went on until day 8, having to remind people every day I was nil by mouth became frustrating, staff were often putting water within my reach and asking if I wanted lunch or not giving me any when I could have it.

I had some bad experiences will staff manually handling me.  Before the operation the leg was in a back slab, it was painful when moved and the heal rubbed constantly on the back slab, which kept me awake at night.

You learnt pressing the nurse call could mean anything from a 5 to 15 min wait, whilst it beeps continuously at you, the longest I waited was 25min.    On one occasion a staff member took the bed controls without me noticing or her saying anything, the bed was suddenly moved and I scream out in pain shouting, ‘let the patient use the controls’ –  she shouted back – ‘we never let the patient use the controls!!!!!!!!!!’  She also refused to use the glide sheet provided.

Lesson number 2 – The patient is the expert in how they feel and want to be treated.  Always inform the patient before doing anything around them, and if they can and it suits them let them have the control.

In part 2, I plan to explore, the therapy, how to be an occupational being in one room, the emotional roller-coaster and more waiting.

Blog Post, Disability, Occupational Therapy

A week in the life of an Occupational Therapist with a disability – For #OTweek15

The World Federation of Occupational Therapist (WFOT) define Occupational therapy as ‘a client-centred health profession concerned with promoting health and well being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement.’ (WFOT 2012)

“Occupation” is also defined as
‘everyday activities that people do as individuals, in families and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. Occupations include things people need to, want to and are expected to do.’

The British Association of Occupational Therapists and College of Occupational Therapists (BAOT/COT) are asking members to engaging in OT week – (2nd – 8th of November 2015) and promote the work and role of an occupational therapist.

This year, I thought I would use social media to promote occupational therapy as this is an occupation I enjoy. I will be posting on my Twitter, and Instagram accounts, as well has updating this blog on a daily basis.

I hope to show ‘a week in the life of an Occupational Therapist with a disability,’ to both demonstrate what my job entails and how I as a person with a disability engage in the occupations I want to, need to, or are expected to do, explaining any modifying of the occupation or the environment that supports my occupational engagement.

Occupational therapist think of occupations in three area, self care, productive and leisure. I will share photos and posts of occupations within these three areas throughout the week. Please feel free to share, and ask questions at any time.

Rachel @OT_rach

Day 1 Monday 2nd November 
For those that are not regulars to my blog, I have a right hemiplegia/cerebral palsy diagnosis due to lack of oxygen to the brain at birth. I also have dyslexia.

This morning started like most days, with pussycat my cat waking me promptly at 7am.
I’m currently recovering from a sprained ankle meaning first thing on morning the trip out of bed to the bathroom and downstairs to feed the cat can be a painful and tricky one.

IMG_0370The morning is mainly self care tasks, I sorted out the washing and prepared my breakfast. Carried both back upstairs in the washing basket. I find it difficult to balance going upstairs whilst carrying something so tend to place the basket on the stairs two at a time. After my breakfast I have a quick shower, my shower has handrails and a seat.

Although my right hand is not as weak as the my right leg/foot, I still find some fine motor skills difficult like doing zips and buttons. I tend to avoid these in clothes. Typical outfit for me for work would be leggings and some sort of dress I can pull over my head, and slip on shoes.  And of course wearing my I ❤️ OT badge.
imageThen the productivity starts. I packed up my lunch and prepared to leave the house and drive my car, which is an automatic adapted to the left accelerator, to work. (I work in acute psychiatry)

This morning I had a first year OT student start. I spent some time replying to emails from Friday. I explained the nature of the OT team to the student, before taking her to a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meeting. Theses meetings happen daily and every patient on the ward is discussed. This was followed by a formulation meeting for a patient that is been with us for about a week now. It was agreed this patient could have leave to the occupational therapy department. I then took this patient over to the department, showed them around and gave them a copy of the timetable. The person expressed an interest in the pottery session.

I spent a little more time with the student talking them through the morning. We then joined the OT team for  lunch, chatting about our weekends, comparing trick or treater experiences and I also checked my twitter feed.

In the afternoon I had some mandatory training, Basic Life Support. This included using mannequins to do CPR practice. I find it difficult to get up and off the floor so asked the tutor if the mannequin could be placed on the table in order for me to engage.

Once’s the training was over, I give the team a quick ring to check that the afternoon at gone well. I then drove home to write this blog. Which I’m dictating using Siri on my iPhone. Having dyslexia, this is often a tool I use when writing a blog or tweeting.

I’m staying at a hotel in Leeds tomorrow night so will be packing.  As I’m getting the train I need to think about fitting everything into a small suitcase that I’m able to lift and manipulate on and off the train independently.

For some leisure this evening, I’m going round to one of my oldest and dearest friends house’s. The biggest challenge visiting Dominic’s house is that his living room is on the first floor. He also has a very low sofa which I find difficult getting off. His house is also a no shoe house which is fine but with the current pain I’ve got in my ankle I prefer to wear shoes for support. To combat this I’m taking my slippers, and Dominic as usual will have to help me get off the sofa.

Day 2 Tuesday 3rd November 2015

Occupational therapist are interested in enabling people with their daily routine, as mentioned in yesterdays post, my cat helps me with my morning routine by waking me everyday at 7am. However this morning I changed my routine slightly much to pussycats annoyance.

Having looked in my dairy I knew I had to get in to work early this morning to fit everything in before leaving promptly to catch a train. As i can be slow on a morning, I had prepared last night by showering, packing an over night bag, preparing my lunch and setting out my clothes for the morning.

IMG_0388I chose to get dressed before going down stairs to feed the cat. Getting to work 1 hour early, I spent this time catching up on emails, before a 9am supervision session with my student. A quick meeting with staff to plan the day and help set up the morning construction group, which is a new group to our timetable. This group will ofter service users the opportunity to make objects out of wood. The first few weeks is concentrated on making the shadow broads that will be used to keep a track of what equipment we have.
This was followed by the daily MDT meeting and two formulation meetings for new admissions which took me up to lunch time. After lunch I pop to my ward to introduce myself and role to a new admission, encouraging them to attend this afternoons session, and made plans to see then again on Thursday.

I then had a supervision session with one of my band 5 OT in which we discussed a person I had been working with last week, but had now moved the band 5 ward. We discussed my assessment so far, and the plan I had put in place for the OT assistant to follow.

This was then followed by a catch up with the student, who had been in the baking session this afternoon.
I left work early to meet up with my mum and catch a train to Leeds.

I’m currently the chair on the BAOT Northern and Yorkshire committee, we have been asked to present at an OT conference in Leeds tomorrow, for #OTweek15. My mum Mary Booth, is a retired occupational therapist, but is also on the regional committee as the current treasurer.

We are staying in a local hotel in which I have booked an accessible room as I find it difficult to get in and out of a bath. Booking online is alway a bit of a gamble as sometimes a hotels understanding of accessible is different from mine.

Negotiating the journey from the train to the hotel, as always has it challenges such as getting off the train in a short time frame. Then faced with an escalator, my worst fear. The motor skills such as balance and coordination to step on to moving object is not my strong point, especially with the extra demand of a suitcase. So instead it was walk against the crowds to a lift. We then waited for a taxi and I prayed for a taxi that was not too high or low to get in and out off. We got a low one!!! Getting in and out other peoples cars can be difficult as my own car is the prefect height for me, which is why I much prefer to drive at every opportunity. But having driven in Leeds before the train felt like the safer option.

For some leisure this evening we are meting up with Amy my brothers girlfriend who is currently in her 4th year of a Dietetics degree. Going somewhere new always presents itself with a level of anxiety for me. How will I get there? How far will I need walk? Most people rate a restaurant on the quality of food, for me its always about the quality of the seating. Will I be able get up for the chair without difficulty? Will there be enough leg room? Amy sent me the link to the restaurant and I didn’t look at the menu, instead I looked at the pictures of the table and chairs. In the confirmation email of our booking, it stated “some of our tables have high bar stools if this is not suitable for your party please contact us” so we had to ring to ensure we are not seated at the high tables.

Normally on Tuesday nights I would be engaging in the twitter chat #OTalk,( Otalk )which tonight is looking at how we promote OT, but I’m out for a meal.  However I am planning on doing a bit of OT promotion with Amy and some of her Dietetics student friends, having packed some stickers saying I love OT for them to wear during dinner.

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Day 3 Wednesday 4th November 2015

FullSizeRenderToday has been a productive one witha little bit leisure but not a lot of self care. My nights sleep was poor due to an uncomfortable bed in the hotel, waking throughout the night with back pain. As I left pussycat at home, I relied on my phone to wake me up, however my back did this for me. I decided against the shower, as it had high step up and no hand rails.

The productive part of my day was attending the first OT sessions at Leeds Teaching NHS Trust, in my role as chair of BAOT Northern and Yorkshire committee, along with Mary our treasurer and Keith our careers promotion lead.

You can see what the Leeds teaching NHS trust OT’s have been getting up to all #OTweek15 by finding them on Twitter @LTHTrust and @LTHTOT.

In brief they are running daily information stalls with a different theme each day to promote OT to both colleagues anIMG_0409d patients. They also hosted their first ever OT sessions, which was an opportunity for OT’s across the trust to get together for some CPD and hear what each other have been getting up to. I was particularly impressed with a presentation by Claire England – Senior OT, who presented ‘Life in colour – developing an outpatient pain management group for teenagers.’ As a advocate for group work, it was great to see what Claire and her colleagues had achieved.

We then got some lunch before heading back to the train station. As we were traveling off peak the station was quieter and therefore less anxiety provoking. Although by this time I was feeling pretty tired, having done more walking than usual. I began to think about how I needed to save some energy for rest of the week.

I have plans to meet a friend tonight, go out for bonfire night tomorrow and catch a train to London with my family early Friday. However as I sit on the train with pain in my back and right leg, I realised I needed to make some sacrifices and rest my body. I decided to ask my friend to meet earlier and somewhere close to my home, and have resigned to the fact I need to miss tomorrows plans for bonfire night to conserve some energy for the weekend.

I have also connected with Jo Southall on twitter today, a student OT who runs the Facebook page ‘DisabilOT’. She is running a twitter chat tonight at 7pm #OTandME15 for OT’s and the general public to engage in. I’m hope to join in from my bed later tonight.

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Day 4 Thursday 5th November 2015.

Pussycat appeared happy to be able to wake me as usual this morning, however today was one of those days I prefer to refer to as a codeine day. Being in pain it took me a little longer to get ready, meaning I did not have time to prepare some lunch.

The productivity started with supervision of the fitness instructor, followed by the daily MDT meeting. I then met with a colleague from the trust research department as I had identified some patients for her to see today as part of a research project.

This mornings groups included pottery and knit and natter, which were ran by the OT assistants. I spend some time arranging Section 17 leave (a legal requirement under the mental health act to allow a patient to leave the grounds of the hospital ) for one of the occupational therapy assistants to take a patient out on some leave this afternoon for a meal.

imageAfter lunch – my student and two of the band 5 OT’s ran a group to explore the importance of sleep, asking the group members firstly to make a mind map of things that help them sleep. Finishing the group with something practical, making lavender pouches, from lavender that was picked in the garden earlier in the week.
Once the groups had finished, the OT team meet for our daily handover and we discussed three new referrals.

I then spent some time with one of the band 5 OT’s who is new to the team and discussed a functional assessment she is planning on doing tomorrow morning. Going over which standardised assessment she might like to use and the paperwork the trust has for completing assessments.

After this we both spent time writing up notes for the patients we had seen today.

I’m on holiday from work tomorrow, and having been out off the office yesterday I had a little bit to catch up on so stayed late to answer emails.  Luckily my office is on the first floor and has a large window, so I was able to enjoy a fireworks display whilst working.
Once home my mind turned to the weekend. Travelling to London with my mother, brother and his girlfriend. I began to think about what we had planned and which category of occupation the purpose of our visit might be. I decided it was self care. Unfortunately we lost my grandmother this August. She lived in London for most of her life and wished for her ashes to be spread on the field across from her old house.

Feeling quite tired I made some tea, packed my suitcase and engaged in leisure occupation of watching some television, catching up on a few things I’ve missed during the week.

Day 5 6th November 2015

Another change to the daily routine this morning, getting up at 6am, pussycat looked most confused. As mentioned yesterday I have taken a days holiday from work today. I collected my brother Dan and his girlfriend Amy on the way to the train station, where we met up with Mum.

We caught the 7.32IMG_0438am Grand Central train to London. On the train we chatted about our weekend plans and played a game of Self care, Productivity and Leisure. Discussing occupations we have engaged in this week and which category we felt they fitted in to. For mum washing her clothes was productivity however myself and Amy felt this was more self care. Amy spent some time spell checking this blog, I think this was more productivity for her however I like to think there was some leisure in it some where. Dan slept for most of the journey – self care?.

Occupational therapists should allow the person they are working with to define which occupations fit in to which category, as what is self care to one person could be leisure to another like getting your hair cut. For some people cooking is productivity and for others its leisure .

Amy a dietetic student then invented a game, Protein, Carbs or Fats, naming food type and getting us to chose which they belonged to.

IMG_2422Once in London the leisure occupations started, we ditched the luggage and ventured out. To lessen the amount of walking we decided to get on a tour bus. Even though we know the city well, Mum lived her for the first 40 years of her life, having both me and dan here, a tour bus is still a great way and easy way to see the city.

Getting to the hotel about 5pm, although we did not do to much walking my ankle was really painful, so a short rest whilst I wrote this blog, before going out for food at the first restaurant we come across. My mind is ready to enjoy a night in the city of my birth, however my body is telling me its time to rest.

Day 6 November 7th November

Just a quick post today, a woke in the hotel room this morning, (i should point out a normal week does not include two overnights in a hotel, just so happens this week is a busy one.) But i think its a good example of how the change of environment impacts on my ability to carry out a my normal morning and self care routines.

I have booked the accessible room again, this time the bed was much more comfortable although very low, a great level for someone in a wheel chair to transfer, but not so good for me to stand up from first thing in the morning. Also the bathroom was sort of accessible, with a very low bath, however still not easy for me to get in and out of so I washed at the sink and washed my hair over the bath .

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We decided to take a taxi from Kings cross to my Nan’s old house in East Acton. There we meet with Nan’s old neighbour, my cousins and Dans god mother Pam. We eat cake, drank tea, reminisced, before venturing out in the rain to say good bye to Nan and scatter her ashes on the field across from her old house.

After this we chose to indulge in a spot of shopping, one of my favourite occupations, Portobello market is not far, however due to the rain we opted for Westfields shopping centre instead. However on a Saturday, it was really busy. Luckily I know this shopping centre well so could plan our route to minimise stress and walking distances.

We traveled back on the underground, you already know that escalators are my worst fear, and the one’s on London underground seen to go much faster. I’m not as scared about going up as I am about coming down, so with the aid of transport for London’s guild to step free underground and my memory I could work out a route that did not including going down any escalators, however at times this does mean walking further. To manage going an escalator I need to have free hands and someoneI trust in front of me.

IMG_0463Feeling pretty tired on the walk back to the hotel, we stopped for fish and chips to eat in the room. Dan and Amy had arranged meet some friends in Soho, again i really wanted to go, but needed to listen my body and rest.Back at the hotel I had some time to review twitter and see what people were tweeting about today. Jennifer Creek has challenged my use of self care, productivity and leisure as a way to explain categorises of occupations, I love to be challenged and yes she is very right she says, categorisation of occupations are artificial – only appropriate or useful for limited professional purposes.

Day 7 8th November 2015

I had a slow morning as our train was not till 9.48am and the hotel was directly opposite the station. We were leaving mum behind has she has business in London.

At the station we had some slight drama, as we arrived and sat down to wait for our train, next to us were three unattended supermarket shopping bags. I asked the people around if they belonged to anyone but no one claimed them. I rushed to find a member of staff to inform and showed them the bags. By this time Dan and Amy had been watching the bags for over five mins, when a woman walked in from outside and explained she could not get signal on the on her phone so had gone outside. Slightly frustrated about the lack of thinking this women portrayed, we walked to catch the train.

I tried to be productive during the journey home, spending some time making a storify of #OTweek15 however the wifi was not great.

Once back up north, I popped to my mums to refill her cat feeders before heading home. I had planned to catch up on a some work, but instead got a shower, my first opportunity to really feel clean since Friday. I then put on my PJ’s before watching some telly, finishing this blog and the storify of the week.

It all starts again tomorrow.

I’d be interested to hear what you thought of this weeks blog. Please leave any comments below, and thanks for reading, I have enjoyed writing it.