Armed with my first class Bsc(Hons) in occupational therapy I thought the job market would open up before me without too much effort. How wrong I was. Firstly there were no jobs. Secondly, my grade counted for little when competing against people with years of experience. As a mature student I have had my share of job interviews over the years but it still shocked me that I couldn’t even get to interview stage for posts I was applying for. However, my university (UWE) had anticipated the need for us to be more creative with our skill set and prepared us to carve our own careers outside of the NHS. But where to start?
I decided to concentrate on charities that I had an interest in and write some speculative applications. After trawling the internet I came across a new charity called Bluebell Nurses, based in Bristol. They support mums with anti/postnatal depression. This was a subject close to my heart as I had experienced postnatal depression with both of my children. I emailed the charity asking if they were looking to use occupational therapists as part of their work. Not expecting to get a reply I then forgot about the email until I received a reply – 2 months later. They were interested in meeting me for a “chat” and to investigate possibilities for my role.
The Bluebell Nurses were about to embark on a group support programme in conjunction with the Teenage Parents Project(TPP) in Withywood. Ironically, I had identified the TPP as a potential new opening for occupational therapy services as part of a final year unit on role emerging fields. Armed with my research notes from this unit I was able to meet with Bluebell Nurses and present a clear picture of how I could support young mums with postnatal depression. Due to the training in presentation skills that my course had provided I was able to convince them that not only could I contribute to the content of the programme but I could also lead the group.
So here I am today – literally thrown in at the deep end. I am running the programme on a sessional fee basis and the feedback so far has been positive. Although I am currently working in isolation from other occupational therapists I have made contact with professionals in a similar field with a view to arranging supervision and possibly mentoring. It’s not how I imagined my first job to be but the freedom and flexibility to design and implement a programme without the red tape and hierarchy associated with the NHS has felt wonderful. I am learning to ask when I need help but also put my trust in my own abilities. My training has provided me with the skills to reflect, analyse and critically appraise what I am doing so I have never felt out of my depth. It is refreshing to have my occupational viewpoint respected and although the work is only part time at present, the charity is new and interest in the service is increasing daily – so who knows where it will lead?