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Davinia McAlinden - occupational therapy degree apprentice

Davinia is currently working as an occupational therapy assistant within stroke and rehabilitation at Cambridge University Hospitals.

Davina McAlinden stood in front of a poster titled 'wheelchairs we use on the Stroke Unit'

She is now in her third year of a four year degree, training to become an occupational therapist. As an occupational therapist, she helps many different people to carry out everyday tasks that they find challenging in their own home so that they can live more independently.

This can include washing and dressing themselves, being able to transfer themselves from one place to another (e.g. from a bed to a wheelchair), to being able to make a cup of tea or a meal, sometimes using additional equipment or aids to make completing these daily tasks easier for them.

Why did you choose to do an apprenticeship? / What appealed to you about doing an apprenticeship?

Davinia initially started training as a nurse at 18 years of age, but decided that this was not the right path for her. As part of her nursing training she saw occupational therapists at work and really felt intrigued by what they did.

She worked as a healthcare support worker for 5 and half years with people with learning disabilities and was looking for jobs at CUH for about a year when a job came up in the occupational therapy department for an occupational therapy assistant. This role then gave her the opportunity to study for her apprenticeship which really appealed to her as it enabled her to learn whilst earning a salary.

What does a typical day look like in your role?

A typical day within stroke and rehabilitation consists of:

  • practising washing and dressing with patients with clear direction from an OT
  • Upper limb rehab, using programmes devised by OT’s
  • Kitchen practise sessions
  • Group therapy including breakfast group, upper limb group etc
  • Cognitive assessments
  • Ordering equipment
  • Small aids practising using with patients for lower body dressing e.g. grabber, sock aid, long handled shoe horn etc
  • Transfer and mobility practise using equipment or without

What do you enjoy about your role?

Davinia says that she very much enjoys being able to spend time with patients and providing rehabilitation that will help improve their overall well-being and quality of life.

What sorts of things do you do for the 20% off the job learning aspect of your apprenticeship?

Davinia attends the University at Coventry once a week on a Monday or a Tuesday for lectures, workshops and seminars and has a study day every other week to help complete assignments and assessments set by the University. She says that although some out of work studying is required, she usually allows a Sunday for additional study during semesters.

Throughout the four year apprenticeship, there are also 3 placements, one of which is for 8 weeks and the other two which are for 10 weeks. These placements cover three areas – acute, mental health and community.

What are your future intentions?

Davinia plans to become a qualified occupational therapist and work at Addenbrooke’s for two years and her end goal is to work as a learning disability occupational therapist in the community.

What advice would you give to others who may be looking to take on an apprenticeship?

Use your colleagues as much as you can to help facilitate your learning. You also need to ensure you obtain an occupational balance to maintain your mental health and wellbeing by participating in activities you enjoy and allowing time for rest. Make yourself a timetable to plan for university work, leisure and rest.