Are you driven to help people? Do you like thinking outside the box? A career in occupational therapy may be just right for you.
We spoke to occupational therapist and UQ Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) graduate Allison Hewitt to hear about her experiences and find out her answer to the question: “is occupational therapy a good career choice?”
Allison is a paediatric occupational therapist (OT) in a private practice clinic, where she works with children and adolescents with neurodivergent diagnoses such as autism and ADHD. She collaborates with her clients’ families, schools and other allied health professionals to provide a holistic approach to support the children to achieve their goals and foster their overall development and wellbeing.
Why is occupational therapy a good career choice?
I believe occupational therapy is an excellent career because it combines creativity, problem solving, and helping others. It opens doors to various work settings and specialties, offering both continuous challenges and daily fulfilment.
Why do you believe occupational therapy is an important profession?
Occupational therapy is an important profession due to its holistic approach to healthcare and wellbeing. Its focus on a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and environmental factors is so inclusive and important to collaborating with a person and helping them achieve their goals. By addressing these multifaceted aspects of a person's life, occupational therapists empower their clients to not only manage their conditions but also thrive in their daily lives. This demonstrates the significance of occupational therapy in promoting a balanced and fulfilling life for individuals facing various challenges.
Why did you choose to become an occupational therapist? What motivated you?
I first decided to start studying OT because I’ve always wanted to help people in the medical field, and the initial idea of helping others engage in their everyday activities was exciting.
Once I learnt more about occupational therapy and the holistic approach through my degree, I was even more motivated to continue in this career. Especially when working with young people; I love to be a part of their support team and help them see their potential and achieve their goals. This path allows me to make a lasting impact by nurturing personal growth and enabling individuals to engage in meaningful daily activities.
Can you describe a moment when you made a significant impact on a patient or achieved a milestone in your profession?
I’ve often found that building a strong rapport is a profound opportunity to witness the transformative impact of my OT skills, especially with young people who can often be more reserved or anxious.
The journey of guiding individuals through challenges and understanding their needs fosters trust and allows you to see their confidence grow over time. For me, this shows the positive influence I’ve had on their lives and shows the true impact of OT to empower people to lead independent, meaningful lives.
What aspect of being an occupational therapist do you enjoy the most?
One of my favourite aspects of being an occupational therapist is the opportunity to connect with so many different individuals and build meaningful relationships with them. Through these connections, I get to understand their unique interests, challenges, aspirations, and then see them grow as a person. These moments of triumph, whether big or small, are the most rewarding aspect of my career.
What key skills and qualities do you think recent graduates need in order to succeed as an occupational therapist?
I think the most important skills and qualities that new graduate occupational therapists can have include self-reflection, commitment to lifelong learning, resilience, adaptability, and self-care. These ensure that you’re putting your best foot forward in providing medical care and building relationships, but you can also put yourself first when you need to. Especially as a new graduate, it can be a challenging time of “imposter syndrome”, and you can’t give your best to your clients if you don’t take care of yourself.
As a recent graduate, what challenges did you face transitioning to a professional occupational therapist, and how did you overcome them?
Transitioning from full-time student to full-time professional OT was a pretty challenging time for me. It came with the challenges of increased responsibilities, managing a work-life balance, and having to learn new skills. I found that the biggest positive factor in helping me achieve these was having people around me, both inside and outside my workplace, as well as taking time for myself and doing the things I enjoy. This helped to refill my cup, so I was able to pour more into my clients and co-workers during my work.
Any advice for aspiring occupational therapists?
Remember to stay flexible in the face of various challenges. Build connections with peers and mentors, and remember that self-care is as important as our clinical skills.
Balance your professional and personal life, and don’t forget to celebrate the small wins with both your clients and yourself. These moments add purpose to your journey in occupational therapy.
Also, remember that OT is a varied field that offers heaps of career paths. In a previous role, I was doing animal-assisted therapy, where I worked with horses to help support clients to develop daily life skills.
What advice would you offer to aspiring occupational therapy students to succeed in their studies and prepare for a successful career?
The best way to maximise your studies is by being an active participant. Attend classes and buy the textbooks. Participate in discussions, ask questions, and find chances to connect with your teachers and classmates. Embrace a willingness to try new things, whether it's taking on challenging projects or exploring diverse aspects of occupational therapy. These experiences will help you discover new things about yourself and the OT field.