Looking after people’s health and happiness is a complex business, which is why Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust employs a wide range of talented professionals with diverse skills.

One of the professionals that is making a big difference to people’s lives every day is Georgie Evans-Rusher, an Occupational Therapist (OT). When the COVID-19 pandemic hit she accelerated her studies so that she could step into the breach to support the NHS.

Helping people to regain their independence

Occupational Therapists help people of all ages who have physical, sensory, or cognitive problems, helping them regain independence in all areas of their lives.

They are just one of the workers whose contribution to people’s quality of life is being celebrated on 14 October through Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) day.

So, how do you become an OT and what is it like doing the job during a pandemic? Georgie explains: “I started my Occupational Therapy degree in 2017 as a mature student, I attended Oxford Brookes University and graduated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had been lucky enough to have secured a job as a band 5 Learning disabilities OT working in a community role. I started this post early to support the NHS during the pandemic.

“When the outbreak hit, I was still completing the final modules of my degree including my dissertation. All my remaining lectures were virtual, and I accelerated my exams and hand in dates so I could work under the COVID registration and start my job early.”

Responding admirably to the challenges

Oxford Health’s Allied Professionals include art therapists, music therapists, podiatrists, dietitians, occupational therapists, paramedics, physiotherapists, and last but by no means least speech and language therapists.

Since January 2020 they have completed over 65,000 face to face appointments with patients and the services have also responded admirably to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Many AHPs have come up with innovative solutions to keep in touch with patients and deliver their valuable services. Georgie has also embraced news ways of working, as she explains: “For me, this has been challenging, however, one of the key skills of being an OT is being able to adapt and think outside the box and this has certainly come into play over the past few months.”

Georgie and Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist – Sian Pratchett – have put together a pilot ‘Virtual Activities Group’ which goes live at the end of October to provide Occupational Therapist support for people unable to receive face-to-face sessions due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Georgie explains: “Having been faced with working from home, completing virtual assessments and therapy interventions digitally we have embraced the new way of working and came up with the idea of running a virtual group. The sessions will be run over eight weeks and will provide valuable Occupational Therapy remotely.”

 

Riding the rewarding rollercoaster

Many people who have joined the Allied Health Professionals family in recent months have been working in ways that they didn’t imagine when they started their studies. But new people will always be needed to join the team and Georgie has some advice.

She says: “Be ready for a roller coaster ride of changes and remember to use your resilience training and be prepared for a new and adapted way of working.

“And also be ready for a rewarding career where you see the results of your work in the lives of your patients.”