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Emma Fail

BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy (Apprenticeship)

Emma Fail is currently studying the BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy (Apprenticeship). She is currently working at the Priory Group in Darlington within inpatient mental health, across their rehabilitation, acute and PICU wards.

Before I started my apprenticeship, I obtained a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from the University of Lincoln as well as an MSc Forensic Psychology degree from Newcastle University. For work, I have been previously employed as a receptionist and a youth worker.

Now, I am studying BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy (Apprenticeship) and I am working at Priory Group in Darlington within inpatient mental health. I am currently rotated to their mixed acute ward where I engage patients in groups and 1:1 sessions, promote engagement in the structured day, complete occupational assessment under supervision and support the Occupational Therapy team in delivering site wide sessions. I have also had experience within their acute and PICU wards.

To help me balance between my work and studying, I have worked with my line manager to identify appropriate time each week that I dedicate to the completion of university related work. Alongside this, I also have protected time once a week where I can attend online teaching sessions with university staff. I try to be as productive as possible in the dedicated university time whilst at work to limit the study I must do at home. I also set myself periods of study time on a Saturday should I need to complete university work as well as using Sundays as protected time, where I do not engage in any study at all, which allows me to ensure that I have time to unwind before the new week begins. The main challenge I have faced is finding the balance between work, studying, and life. I find it difficult to completely turn away from study. However, communicating with my manager and the OT team at work has helped ensure that I get enough time at work to engage in study so that I can limit the amount of work I need to do at home.

My apprenticeship has influenced my role at work by consolidating my knowledge of why we do what we do in the workplace. We often do things at work because that’s what you been told do or that’s how it’s always been done. However, the apprenticeship had taught me to question what we do, develop my knowledge and gain experience from those I work with. It has also helped me better understand the profession and the role.

Since starting the apprenticeship, I have received more opportunities in the workplace, getting the opportunity to engage and observe assessment and engage in MDT meetings. The apprenticeship has allowed for my personal progression, as well as the benefit for further training being recognised within my team, inspiring others to begin the Occupational Therapy apprenticeship. It has also encouraged other occupational therapy assistants to explore training and courses in a variety of areas.

After graduating, I plan to continue working in inpatient mental health, however in the future I would like to move into occupational therapy in the criminal justice system. I would also be interested in broadening my knowledge of the sensory aspects of occupational therapy having been exposed to this whilst on practice placement.

I would encourage anyone thinking about it to enrol on an apprenticeship, as it continually provides real work experience of practice which allows you to consolidate learning experiences immediately and allows you to continually put things you learn into practice. Utilise any opportunity you get to get involved on campus, at work and on placements. Don’t be shy to show your confidence and ability when on placement if you have experience with things in the workplace, as educators have often experienced having students that are apprentices! I have had an overall positive experience of the apprenticeship at Sunderland, being part of the first occupational therapy apprenticeship cohort. I have good communication with lecturers whilst I am back in the workplace and get the opportunities to attend on campus sessions and feel part of the university group."

Published 30 January 2024

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