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Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy training supported

26 October 2020


The James Paget is supporting additional Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy students this year – and providing new opportunities for our Therapy Assistant Practitioners to progress their careers.

While Covid-19 has meant some changes for our integrated therapies team over the past few months, there is now a renewed commitment to training the Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists of the future.

This has seen the hospital pledging to support more students, in partnership with the University of East Anglia, and re-starting a degree apprenticeship programme for our Therapy Assistant Practitioners to qualify as Occupational Therapists (OTs). 

The hospital has several teams of OTs and Physiotherapists to support patients, helping them to adapt, recover and improve after surgery, stroke, heart conditions or respiratory problems, to mobilise during and after hospital stays, to assist with pelvic health and acute medical issues and to help patients get back to everyday living. 

These clinical therapists are supported by Therapy Assistant Practitioners (TAPs) and Therapy Assistants (TAs), who carry out both Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy components of patient care, covering areas including;

  • Stroke Unit
  • Acute Medicine 
  • Early Intervention Team (A&E and the Emergency Assessment/ Discharge Unit)
  • Cardiology/Respiratory/Surgery (CRS)
  • Orthopaedics – Trauma and Elective surgery
  • Pelvic and Maternal Health – Outpatients, Gynaecology and Maternity Inpatient wards
  • Paediatrics  - Community and Children’s Ward 

Earlier this year, before the Covid-19 pandemic, Sophie Pegg, Emma Holland and Emma Wright – all Therapy Assistant Practitioners (TAPs) at the hospital, pictured below, – were accepted onto a new degree apprenticeship to become Occupational Therapists.

OT Apprentices3b 

Then Covid happened and all three were needed in their TAP roles. Now, six months on, they have re-started the 30-month apprenticeship.

Emma Holland, who works with our CRS (Cardiology/ Respiratory/ Surgery) team, says she is looking forward to the opportunities the apprenticeship will bring. 

“I always wanted to be an Occupational Therapist and was waiting for the right opportunity. The apprenticeship has been talked about for some time but it was getting the timing right. I have two children and I was ready to do, so I think we were all initially disheartened after getting into rhythm of academic studies and then having to be suddenly be moved away from doing the apprenticeship when it was put on hold, but we are pleased it has now all been re-started.

“They have been quite flexible – I will do one day on university studies and three days at work each week.  I want to explore different areas and the apprenticeship will give me the opportunity to see what possibilities are out there.” 

After starting her career at the James Paget 12 years ago as a Health Care Assistant, Emma is successfully progressing her career, after working as a TAP in both the CRS and Acute Medicine teams. 

Sophie Pegg, who has also worked with both teams and is completing her apprenticeship in Acute Medicine, started her career at 18 by looking after three gentlemen with learning disabilities. After completing a degree in literature, she joined the James Paget in 2016. 

“I started at the hospital as a part-time newborn hearing screener – carrying out audio tests on newborn babies to check their hearing. I then became a Therapy Assistant Practitioner in 2017 and when the apprenticeship was offered I applied and was successful.” 

Emma Wright started her career as a carer, working in private and residential homes for four years, but wanted something that could offer some different career opportunities. 

“I looked at the Therapy Assistant Practitioner role and when the job came up at the James Paget I thought it sounded interesting and applied. I have been a TAP for six years and I really like the Occupational Therapy side of the role.  An apprenticeship suited me as it meant I could work and still earn while I trained. 

“I’ve moved to the stroke team to do the apprenticeship and I’ve already learnt more about stroke rehabilitation and cognitive assessment. The apprenticeship also gives more opportunities to learn about the theory behind it all, and to broaden our knowledge. 

“There are so many different areas and different specialisms within Occupational Therapy and the apprenticeship opens doors to these.” 

Emma, Sophie and Emma are all now adapting to the challenge of the new Covid world of online, virtual, learning. 

Sophie said; “It’s really good that we’re doing the apprenticeship together. It’s useful to have that support both with the technology and practicalities of a different way of studying and sharing how we’re managing our time balancing between university work, working with patients in the hospital and our family and social lives. 

“We regularly get together to talk about all the new things we’re learning and we’re looking forward to experiencing other settings and exploring different types of occupational therapy.” 

Senior Occupational Therapist Emily Leeks said the apprenticeship was just one of the ways the James Paget was supporting the qualification of the next generation of OTs. 

“We are actively recruiting Band 5 and 6 Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists at the moment and the apprenticeship is designed to provide a route to full qualification for our existing Therapy Assistant Practitioners and Therapy Assistants if they wish to progress. 

“We are also supporting more students who are studying at the University of East Anglia. When we looked at our staffing we discovered many of the team came from the UEA, had placements here and liked it. 

“Each year we get allocated a number of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy students that we will support and then, as we are able to, we support additional placements too. This year we are increasing the number of students we will support and we hope this will help boost recruitment too.”