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AHP Day Celebration

AHP Day Celebration

Date of release: 14 October 2021 

Happy #AHPDay! We wanted to say a massive thank you to all of our amazing AHPs for their skill and dedication.

To celebrate the day we have spoken to staff about their careers and what they love most about being an AHP.

Company Secretary Keith’s move from banker to occupational therapist paid dividends
Latest News: AHP Day - Keith Wilshere

Keith Wilshere has gone from banking to occupational therapy to lead AHP to Deputy Director of Governance to Company Secretary but has had such a varied career he feels very much in credit – and is still reaping the dividends!

By the time Keith trained as an AHP, he was a mature student, with life experience that helped him decide that it was what he wanted to do.

“When I left college at 18, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Keith, four decades on. “Then when I was a student, others had their next steps planned out, to the extent where they even knew what Masters degrees and research they wanted to do, and I wasn’t like that.

“Before I trained as an AHP I worked in retail banking. A colleague (and still good friend) and I calculated the only thing you do more than work is sleep, so we reckoned we should do something we enjoyed. That was life lesson number one!

“The second lesson was that a mapped out, planned future and career suits some people but not others. Whilst my career has been a bit random, I have achieved what I set out to do over that conversation with that colleague!

“When I trained as an AHP, 10 per cent of my cohort were also mature students and because we’d had a bit of life experience, we had given up something to be there.  I felt for some of the others who were less sure or less invested, younger or both, and some of them seemed to struggle, like I’d done previously.”

Once qualified, Keith settled on rehabilitation as a specialty which meant he treated patients predominantly recovering from physical injury and disability.

Yet within two years his new career took another twist when he switched to work in acute mental health, then working with children and adolescents with mental health, behaviour and conduct disorders.

Despite his varied career path, Keith maintains there are very few jobs he has ever ‘gone’ for in a planned way – most have been there when he decided it was time for a change, such as the head of service in forensic mental health, mental health rehabilitation and forensic learning disability.

In this and subsequent roles, Keith was exposed to looking and thinking strategically, with everything on a much wider scale than he had previously been used to.

“I then had the opportunity to add being the regional AHP,” he recalled. “I got to meet regional and national leaders and decision makers. It was very interesting!”

“But what struck me was they were just as good or fallible as any human beings; just because you’re in a senior leadership role doesn’t mean you’re right, or coping.”

The other job Keith was persuaded to take was head of governance at a trust when he was lead AHP.

“The chief executive asked me to do it out of the blue as he thought I might know something about governance,” he recalled. “It was a steep learning curve but I thought I’d give it a go.  

“I spoke to people in other organisations who were doing the job and we helped each other out and I thought ‘I can do this – and do it well’. The feedback from staff and managers was ‘you’re doing the job as well as anyone could’.”

Life then took Keith in another direction when his daughter, who was primary school age at the time, became seriously ill with a life-long condition.  Where he was working at the time was going through a re-organisation so he declined the chance to apply for his own job (and two other jobs on top) and took early retirement at the age of 51 to care for his daughter.

“We all have choices in life and sometimes those are easy and sometimes they are hard,” explained Keith. “For me at that point, I asked myself if work was the most important thing for me and the answer was ‘no’.  However, I had an inkling that if I could return to work, I would want the change to do something similar but different.  I took the opportunity in this time to do a Company Secretary training.”

As his daughter recovered, he took on interim roles at different hospitals all over the country, including an acute district hospital, at a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and an Ambulance Trust, before he ended up as first interim Trust Secretary and then Company Secretary at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.

He has learned several lessons along the way. “Life may give you a wake-up call, but we’re all human beings.  Friends and colleagues will help you if you ask them,” he said.

“Sometimes not having a plan hasn’t been a bad thing; what I have found is that it’s worth spending a bit of time getting to know yourself because we don’t always take the time to consider what we want in and from life.  

“My experience is that as I have got to understand myself better, including the ways in which I have changed and continue to change – it’s a life-long journey! You can have a better sense of what fits and works best for you at the time.  

“It can help make more informed choices, and remember, nothing is forever. Change is constant, all is impermanence. What we do is work with and by each other – we can invent, build, take apart and build anew.

“I have often learned as much if not more from things that have not gone well than from things that have; in all cases, it’s important to take time to reflect – ‘what did I learn from this experience?’ And remember – we all have choices.”

Physio Callum took a different route to follow his dream
Latest News: AHP Day - Callum Telford

Callum Telford is now a busy band 6 physiotherapist rotating between two major wards and leading junior staff at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust – but he admits he might not be where he is now if he didn’t take a different route.

A desire to be a physiotherapist came when he was at college while studying a BTEC in sport science, and his initial steps towards his dream came via further studies in sports therapy before a job as a physiotherapy assistant.

His current role, rotating between thoracic and Integrated Critical Care Unit (ICCU), also includes leadership of band 3 and 4 staff as well as supporting band 5 junior physiotherapists.

Reflecting on his progression, he says: “I didn’t knuckle down enough at college to go straight to university and study physiotherapy, but I also don’t think I was mature enough to take on the degree back then.”

Instead, Callum decided he would continue his studies and was accepted on a course to study sports therapy in hope this would benefit him to become a physiotherapist in the future. 

“I found my first year difficult; it’s not the easiest degree and it took me a while to get back into education after having time away from it,” he admitted.

But he got through and after completing his course, Callum successfully applied to become a physiotherapy assistant at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, starting a post at New Cross Hospital. 

During his two years as an assistant, he was funded by the NHS to complete a year 3 BSc degree in physiotherapy at Keele University. 

“I was very fortunate with my timing as I was the last cohort to be funded by the NHS to study physiotherapy,” he recalled. 

Callum never looked back and within two years of qualifying, progressed to his current role, which he clearly loves.

When asked what he enjoys most about his job, he said: “I enjoy patient contact and helping people who need it most – that is the sole reason I wanted to be a physiotherapist.”

So, why New Cross? “I already worked there as an assistant, I knew the Trust, everyone is friendly and when I first qualified, I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

Now he is starting to establish himself, Callum is happy to share his experience and pass on advice to those looking to become an AHP.

“You don’t have to go straight to university – look at the route I took; you can always come back to it later on,” he said. “If anything, my route really helped me with my communication skills, which is a must in an AHP role.

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself with career progression – there is always another route to where you can go.”

Kay has gone from making limbs to treating them!
Latest News: AHP Day - Kay Sedgwick

From making limbs to treating them and looking after them – Kay Sedgwick has had a varied career!

Now Head of the Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy Directorate at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT), Kay was previously an administration manager for a prosthetics contractor before embarking on a different path as a mature student.

Physical therapy, also known as PT, focuses on helping improve your movement, mobility, and function. A physiotherapist may do this by using a variety of exercises, stretches, or other physical activities.

Occupational therapy, also known as OT, focuses on helping patients perform daily tasks more easily, so they can carry out specific day-to-day activities. The occupational therapist will also focus on making a patient’s home or school environment more optimal for their everyday life.

Perhaps she was always destined for occupational therapy, as from early on in her career, Kay spent a lot of time around occupational therapists (OTs) – more of that to come – and their influence must have rubbed off on her because found her calling to become one herself. 

Kay’s journey from manufacturing artificial limbs to manipulating real ones started when she enrolled on a college course in the evenings to get her access for higher education qualification, but unfortunately during that time she was made redundant from her job. 

But this didn’t stop her in her quest to better herself as she quickly found a new post, working nights as administrative support at a delivery unit. 

On completion of her access to higher to education course Kay gained a place at Oxford Brooks University where she studied – you’ve guessed it – occupational therapy.

While at university, Kay sharpened her skills with some work experience, becoming an Occupational Therapy (OT) Assistant at West Park Hospital, part of RWT.

After graduating, she gained experience in the role with posts at Dudley, Birmingham and Moseley as a band 5 OT before deciding to return to RWT, starting off at the Accident and Emergency admission service at New Cross Hospital.

Soon after returning to RWT, Kay was promoted to clinical lead for PT and OT and progressed again to her current post, which she is really relishing.

“I really enjoy the pace of the work, the people I work with, and I love adding value to the Trust as AHPs, but it can be tiring,” said Kay.

So after working and studying in so many different areas, why choose Wolverhampton? “I like the people, I feel appreciated here, they communicate with us,” she added.

With such a broad range of life experiences and work, Kay is well placed to advise budding AHPs, insisting: “Speak to the work experience team, go to career days and get a good insight to what you want to do because the AHP team is so broad, you can find your niche in there.”

For those who are already in the profession, Kay believes communication is the key to job fulfilment. “Take the opportunities that are there, communicate with each other, give ideas and use your voice – engage in the meetings,” she said.

Pamela has gone full cycle from laundry to occupational therapy
Latest News: AHPs Day - Pamela Has Gone Full Cycle from Laundry to Occupational Therapy

From washing dirty linen to helping patients recover from injury, Pamela Baker’s fresh start is as dramatic as it is inspirational – but it took an initially uncomfortable spin to launch her career into full cycle.

Having transformed into a role as an Occupational Therapist, Pamela has enhanced not just her own life but the people she treats.

But it’s been quite a journey from the washing machines and tumble driers. When she was 19, Pamela was working in the laundry department at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, based at New Cross Hospital. 

It took the closure of the department in 2001 – 16 years after she started there – to launch Pamela’s change in direction. Encouraged to find a new department to work in within the Trust, Pamela decided she wanted to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant. 

She enjoyed the job and the people she worked with so much that she decided to pursue a career as an allied health professional, taking a committed leap into the world of occupational therapy.

That meant a return to studying for the first time since she left school and she enrolled at Coventry University. But even then her path wasn’t straightforward.

Pamela said: “I left school with basic O levels and GCSEs which led me to having to complete a mandatory access to nursing course before I could start studying a BSc in Occupational Therapy, and I felt lucky to be accepted at the time.”

For the next four years, Pamela spent one day a week at university – combining her studies with working as occupational therapy assistant – all while looking after her parents and raising her son, who soon joined the military. 

Clearly with so much going on in her life, Pamela had to remain focused and she revealed her determination gave her the belief that she could achieve her goal.

“I just thought I could do this – there isn’t any harm in trying,” she said. “Going into academic study was hard at first, because I wasn’t used to the medical terminology and the studying process.”

And Pamela has some simple advice for those considering a leap into the unknown.

“Go for it, strive for the best, never think there’s something you can’t do and try things you wouldn’t normally try, because everything is worth a shot,” she said. 

“But most of all keep yourself approachable, work your way up and remember to look for, or create, opportunities for yourself.”

Once she graduated as an Occupational Therapist, Pamela wanted to continue to work at New Cross as she valued what the familiar surroundings brought.

“I love the team, I love the people I work with, and I have made so many lifelong friends over the years, plus it’s local – I can roll out of bed and come to work,” added Pamela. 

Not only does she enjoy the company of her colleagues, Pamela also loves working with her patients. “I like knowing I’ve done my best with every patient, and they get home safely,” she said.

A Teaching Trust of the University of Birmingham