Rachel WilsonI qualified as an OT in 2003. I knew I wanted to be an OT from the age of 13, and I was not going to let my stigmatised teenage single mum status stop me from living the dream!

I threw myself into my employment within the NHS and involved myself in the wider professional arena by signing up for regional BAOT committee posts and submitting abstracts for presenting at COT conferences at an early stage. Networking with people I respected from the beginning inspired me to push on and be the best I could be.

Despite this, I met plenty of tough times that challenged my belief in the profession, my role, my competence and my colleagues, but I never gave up. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I always sought support (it is always there if you know where to look) and I used each challenge as a stepping stone to new and better things that suited my approach.

I had always wondered about independent practice, but as I had never specialised in a specific area, I always assumed I would not be good enough. After having my second child (14 years after the first), I decided to take a leap of faith and test the water as an expert witness with Jacqueline Webb & Co Ltd. I was still a ‘generalist OT’, but I had completed my MSc and believed my clinical reasoning as a specialist occupational therapist in a multitude of areas, often away from historic/traditional roles, might benefit my ability to be analytical, which expert work requires.

The longer I spent as an expert witness, the more I realised I had been working within the limits of the glass ceiling of criteria-led and budget-restricted services for so long that I was not achieving the occupational outcomes that may otherwise be possible with my clients. I started to step out to engage with private referrals, and finally took the ultimate leap of faith into full time self-employment with a mix of treating OT and expert reports.

Now, 4 years post-leap, I have my own practice as a Expert Witness as part of the Peritus Network, an occupational therapist with 7 registered associates across the north of England, and a case manager with Independence Works, a national panel of independent OTs working with clients after personal injury with an aim to get them back to employment.

My work life still has its ups and downs, but the freedom to lead my own path with the support of other inspiring individuals is the best thing I could ever have done for myself.

And a certain Mrs Gash, the OT Coach, was a huge part of helping me to identify self-compassion and self-worth in a way that opened so many doors to my future success.

I wish anyone who is reading this all the best for your future journey of doing things a bit differently. You can do it!

Rachel Wilson