Elizabeth is a HCPC registered occupational therapist working for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
In celebration of Black History Month Elizabeth shares her experience as a black woman in her field and provides advice to others from a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background wanting a career in allied health.
I have been an occupational therapist for seven years and the last three years specialising in neurology/stroke. Many people who know me, know it’s my thing as I feel I am able to make a difference by providing specialist rehabilitation for patients with a variety of neurological conditions.
From a young age I had always known that I wanted to work in the NHS and “help people”, however I knew nursing wasn’t the route I wanted to take. I scrolled through the NHS careers website and tried to find a career that would enable me to build a rapport with patients. I stopped at occupational therapy and did some research, then decided to spend a day at Kings College shadowing. I spent one day on a neuro rehab unit and loved the type of rehabilitation I experienced there. I loved the use of everyday activities as therapy to enable individuals to regain their independence. This is the foundation of our profession.
As a black woman in the profession, I have worked within a variety of trusts and teams. Most of the teams have had minimal black representation.
This applied also when studying and early on in my profession this made me feel uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. These included an unwelcoming environment, cold working culture and my own insecurities.
As I have matured I have become comfortable in my own skin, my abilities and skills and developed a wealth of experience and knowledge, I no longer feel uncomfortable.
I know wherever I choose to practice, minimal black representation or not I am more than enough, I have worked hard and earned my right to be there and most importantly I’m able to deliver a high standard of care.
My advice to those from BAME backgrounds who want to work in allied health
Despite the numbers of BAME representation in allied health professions increasing, these figures are still low.
If an AHP role or specifically occupational therapy is a profession you would like to consider, I would strongly suggest getting experience prior if you can for example a therapy assistant or occupational therapy assistant/practitioner role. This will give you some insight into the role. I admit our roles are challenging for many reasons but very rewarding as we are able to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people.
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- Occupational therapists