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Davina - Occupational Therapy Degree Apprentice

Davinia joined CUH in 2017 as an Occupational Therapy Assistant and in 2019 started her degree apprenticeship to become a qualified Occupational Therapist (OT). Before joining the hospital Davinia was already working in patient care.

Background and Role

Davinia started training to be a nurse when she left school but decided not to complete the course, instead working as a healthcare assistant in the NHS and gaining her health and social care level 3. Davinia also gained an Assessor qualification to assess others in health and social care. She later worked as a support worker for people with learning disabilities before moving to CUH at the hope she could eventually study the OT degree whilst working. Davinia works within stroke rehab as an Occupational Therapy Assistant at Addenbrookes Hospital.

This role includes working under the direction of an Occupational Therapist carrying out a treatment plan to deliver interventions to help patients with their recovery. Occupational therapy looks at what aspects patient’s need, want and are expected to do on a daily basis at home. Rehabilitation involves physical and cognitive therapy, using everyday tasks and activities such as washing & dressing, transfers (getting in/out of bed), making a snack or meal, group therapy (breakfast group, music group, baking group, gardening group etc.) and any other activities that are important to the patient.

This could also be to continue a hobby that a patient had prior to their stroke like painting or playing a musical instrument. It also involves considering strategies or equipment to help patients manage daily tasks when leaving hospital. And lastly Occupational therapy promotes mental health well-being, addresses any emotional and psychological struggles patients may have. Overall Occupational therapy focuses on enabling patients to maximise their capacity to participate in life activities that are important and meaningful to them to promote overall health and wellbeing.

How does the Apprenticeship Work?

This Apprenticeship includes working in the job role as a banded member of staff well as studying the Occupational Therapy Degree Apprenticeship for four years. The Degree is through Coventry University and the course participants are a number of OT apprentices who work in a mixture of settings nationally. In usual times the course includes attending the University onsite one full day per week. The day includes a mixture of lectures, workshops and seminars. The students study two modules per semester.

Work is submitted in assignments which can include group or individual assignments and oral assessments. They are also assessed through giving presentations, contributing to online forum discussions and written reflections. Davinia’s course assessor and manager meet with her together in a tri-party meeting at regular intervals.

Also within the department there are many colleagues who offer support to Davinia in her learning and she also has a dedicated mentor in the team. Davinia’s managers will consider her study workload and give additional study time, if and when needed.

How has the Covid-19 Pandemic affected the Role?

Some of the activities they would usually do with patients such as group therapy sessions have had to stop in the worst parts of the pandemic. At times Davinia has also needed to work with a different set of patients from different areas. The University course has all moved online. It is more challenging managing time to view recorded online lectures which need to be done separately to the allocated study day. Study days now consist of around five hours of remote workshops and seminars in a day which can be more difficult to concentrate in than face to face ones, however the plus side is there is not the travelling requirement. The key is to time manage well.

What are the benefits of studying through the apprenticeship route?

I get to work with other health professionals who can support and guide me and have a broad experience learning the basic duties.

I will come out of the university degree without the debt and get a paid salary in the role. New staff who come into a qualified role straight from their full time university degree can lack broad experience and therefore they sometimes lack confidence. I help to support newly qualified staff as an experienced OT assistant.

In early 2020 Davinia was nominated by her university lecturer for a university-based apprenticeship award for her good work and participation which she said was a real confidence boost.

What advice would you give to others starting an Apprenticeship?

Use your colleagues to learn from, ask them questions and observe them.

Participate with group learning with other people on the course – it has opened my eyes to different avenues and working environments for Occupational Therapists.

Most of all remember to factor in self-care and rest and manage the workload well as it is a challenge studying and working at the same time.