Donna White

Job Title

Specialist Occupational Therapist in Adult Mental Health

Where are you based?


Is your role clinical or non-clinical?


When you were at school, did you want to join the NHS?

Yes. People always spoke positively about the many opportunities for career progression, staff support and the long-term value and investment in the NHS work pension.

What qualifications did you have when you joined the NHS?

I had a university degree in Occupational Therapy.

How did you come to work in the NHS?

When I first qualified, there were no specific jobs advertised for a newly qualified Occupational Therapist. I really wanted to stay on the Isle of Wight because I was fortunate to have my final placement there when I was studying for my degree, so I took the plunge and applied for a generic role as a Mental Health Practitioner. I was worried that I was not experienced enough, it was a newly established service within mental health, and I was the youngest person in the team. This turned out to be the best of all my working experiences to date. I was so welcomed and supported by the team to develop an Occupational Therapy role within this service. I was able to use the skills I had learnt but also gain a broader knowledge of other areas. The social aspect of being part of the team was also fantastic and some of my closest friends today are from this experience.

Briefly explain your job

Our service helps people to recover using therapeutic activity. This enables people to regain their skills and confidence to participate in their chosen life occupations. We focus on areas of self-care, work/education, and leisure. We support people when in hospital and at home and we work with people individually but also offer therapeutic group interventions.

What do you love about your job?

My days are always so varied, which I love. I get to meet and work with amazing people. They range from attending meetings with other professionals, carrying out functional assessments, attending training courses, facilitating art/cookery/fitness/wellbeing groups, supporting people with job interviews, or introducing people to community organisations that will support with their onward recovery. I even took someone surfing the other day! It is always so rewarding to see people improve and feel that you may have helped in some way.

What is challenging about your role?

Time and paperwork. Like all jobs, things do not always go to plan and you need to work hard at developing good time management skills to fit in the necessary paperwork for patient safety. However, the NHS values staff wellbeing and is flexible to ensure that staff do not suffer from stress and receive the support they need.

Is there career progression in your role and how would you get there?

The NHS provides flexible part-time working and provides good training opportunities to ensure you meet your professional registration requirements. I have always had regular supervision sessions and annual appraisals to support me with my career progression.

What would you say to a young person thinking of joining the NHS?

Spend lots of time researching. There are so many different pathways you can take and see if you can spend time shadowing teams and talking with staff to find what really interests you. I love the fact that there are now different routes into jobs without having to spend years at university. Apprenticeships are a fantastic way of learning on the job.

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