Occupational Therapist

Sarah Ahya, an Occupational Therapist who works with patients in their homes, talks about how she moved from a locum to a permanent position for Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust, and the rewards of empowering her patients to become independent again.

Sarah _Ahya 320"I work as an Occupational Therapist on an Intermediate Care Team in Barnet, undertaking home-based rehabilitation programmes with adult patients, which typically last from four to six weeks. I spend two days a week working with stroke patients and three days a week working with patients with general conditions.

"Vitally, the work I do with patients revolves around goals that are important to them. This could be anything from being able to wash or dress by themselves, get back to work, or use the kitchen independently.

"I love working in the community and it's very different to acute medicine. In the community, there are no pressures of discharging patients that there are in the hospital setting. When you see patients in hospital, there's also no time to build rapport with them because they are usually only there for a few days. Through my work for Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust, I get to know my patients, their families, carers and other clinicians who work with them. I also have the time to make sure the programme of care is totally bespoke to my patients, and it's great to go on to see the positive impact this makes when patients see results.

"I actually started working here as a locum. When this full time job came up, the managers I worked with told me about it and encouraged me to apply. I saw it as a fantastic opportunity, especially as I had already experienced working with the team, saw how supportive they were and already knew I enjoyed the job. I live nearby too, so it's really convenient for work, plus the transport links into central London are fantastic, which I take advantage of during my time off.

"Giving adults greater independence is inherent to my role because it's all about working towards goals my patients want to achieve. A patient I worked with recently sticks out in my mind in particular. She had quite a dense stroke and her upper limb was affected. This made it difficult for her to eat, wash, dress, go shopping, handle money and write her signature: all the things we take for granted were really difficult for her.

"I visited her every other day, when we did a range of upper limb exercises and practiced practical skills such as those in the kitchen and using cutlery. One of our Rehabilitation Assistants visited her on alternate days as well, so she received a really robust rehabilitation programme.  At the end of six weeks, she'd gained all her strength back and was doing things like driving and going shopping with her friends - which was really important to her as a social aspect of her life as well as a practical one.

"She was so happy. When I first met her, she thought she would never improve or be independent after her stroke. I was really touched when she sent me a handwritten letter to thank me. I'm lucky to get great feedback like this frequently from patients. I keep patient letters like these all together in a folder - it's a great reminder of how I've helped to empower people to become independent again."

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