It’s great to be a part of the Connect Health family. It’s an enjoyable and flexible place to work. I’ve been made to feel really welcome, and their investment in people is obvious.
My background is as an Occupational Therapist (OT)
I joined Connect Health in April 2020, working as a Clinical Specialist in the North and North East Lincolnshire Pain Service. Before this, I was an OT working for the NHS in North Yorkshire.
My career has been varied
I worked for many years as a manager within the Voluntary Sector working for health related charities such as RNIB and the MS Society. I wanted to bring together my interest in human health together with my interest of animal behaviour and I went to college part-time and gained a Foundation Degree in Canine Behaviour and Training.
This led to me becoming Deputy Centre Manager at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Over the years, I noticed that people with hearing loss often also need support with complex mental or physical health needs. That lead me to discover occupational therapy.
I came a bit late to academic study, but I got there in the end!
I started my OT degree in 2012 whilst working part time at Hearing Dogs. The University placements I had whilst studying for my degree included working in Paediatrics and Neuro Rehab for brain injury.
For my final 12 week placement I offered my services to Alzheimer’s Scotland helping to establish their Dementia Dog project.
I set up the Additional Needs Team at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People after I qualified as an OT
I loved the charity and it was great to see the difference Occupational Therapy made to people with complex conditions. After four years as an OT there I wanted to develop my clinical skills further within the NHS and I began work as a Specialist Practitioner in Adult Rehabilitation in the community in North Yorkshire. I really enjoyed the work and it was a great team but due to family circumstances, I needed to look for a better work/life balance and to work nearer to home.
I saw the Connect Health Clinical Specialist vacancy advertised and got in touch
I’d always been interested in pain management, and a lot of the patients I’d worked with previously had been in chronic pain. The role started at the beginning of Lockdown, so face to face clinics were dramatically restricted, and we’re still using video and telephone consultations.
There’s been a change in the way clinicians approach pain management in recent years
As with many other health services, there’s been a paradigm shift from patients being passive receivers of care to being proactive in managing their own conditions with the support of clinicians. It’s great to help empower people.
OTs are dual trained
We spend equal time on physical and mental health at under graduate level, doing rotations in both areas. What sits so well in pain management is we use a model of care called biopsychosocial, looking at both physical and mental health in the context of things that are valuable and meaningful to patients. A patient may say ‘it’s a struggle to get out of bed in a morning’, so we’ll dismantle a task and look at breaking it down and seeing what the barriers are to participation. It’s not just about whether you can physically get out of bed, we look at the mood of the patient.
Working as an OT as part of an MDT brings such richness to patients
We’re so fortunate as because within our team we have the consultants, nurses, physios, psychologists, and me as an OT. We have a weekly MDT meeting where we review all aspects of patient care. It helps my learning, and in turn what I contribute helps other people as well.
My role shows how diverse OT can be. It’s very clinic based but there’s lots of breadth. OTs as part of a pain service is becoming more common. What I’m doing is great and proves a
need. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I still love to learn and share knowledge
I have a Master’s degree in Health Professional Leadership and Service Development, and I’m a visiting lecturer at York St John, as well as helping them to assess OTs. I’d like to be able to utilise my skills even more, with greater depth. I have experience as a manager and would like to do more within Connect Health and to promote OTs.
My work with Hearing Dogs for Deaf People still continues but in a different vein. I was honoured to be asked to join the Board of Trustees last year. I sit on their Hearing Loss Services group, helping to shape services for adults and children with hearing loss.
If I could give advice to anyone in a similar situation thinking of a career change and/or academic advancement, I’d say try to make it a win-win
Try to align what you’re looking for with the aims of the organisation. Go with a solution, not a problem. Do your research and if you’re looking for an employer to invest in you, as Connect Health does with its training and Academy, think about the benefits to both sides. Make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy and that can fit into your life because that will carry you through the tough times.
If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to download Karen Milsom’s Story