Susan Ritchie – BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy graduate

Year of graduation: 2016

Current employer: Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Current job title: Rotational Occupational Therapist

Current location: Cornwall

“The range of assessment methods at the University provided me with the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills that I am now applying to my personal development.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I secured a role as a Rotational Occupational Therapists at the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust the summer I graduated.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

As a mature student who has worked in a range of health roles, I decided that occupational therapy was the path for me because I have always enjoyed working with people of different ages in different settings. The profession’s holistic approach to treating the whole person, their mental, physical, and social wellbeing, enables them to reach their full potential. Occupational therapist services are delivered in a range of settings and across all age groups. Although I have just begun my career path, one interest I had not expected to gain during my studies was the desire to be involved in research; this, I hope, will increase the presence of occupational therapists in health promotion, an area in which I would like to be working in the future.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Joining the occupational therapy rotation will provide me with the opportunity to gain experience in a range of services; however, alongside this it presents me with the difficulty of documentation and report writing (not my strongest area). My present post is in a community adult learning disability team, which is an amazing team – although the report writing is about as complex as it gets. This vulnerable client group need detailed client centred reports/plans that inform their care teams on how to provide support to achieve their full potential.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I have only been employed for a short time, but while I was at university I produced a poster as part of one of my modules. The focus was health promotion and I have now presented the poster at two conferences. At the 3rd #CountMeIn! Scientific Meeting: Supporting Children's Participation, it was commended; this was a great confidence builder (as I was still a student at the time).

Imagine you were about to start university again - with the benefit of hindsight - what would you now tell yourself to have done differently?

Sometimes I wish I had thought about doing a degree a few years earlier, although life is full of swings and roundabouts. I have four amazing children (the youngest of which is now 15) and a husband who has been by my side through tears, happiness, chocolate, and wine whilst I was studying. Now I am able to concentrate on a career that I am passionate about.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Spend some time working with people, children, or adults in any occupation that gives you contact time because here you can begin to develop vital people skills. Be open-minded to where occupational therapy could take your career path; we work with such diverse groups of people, who knows where you may end up working. Therefore, think of everything you do as a learning opportunity.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

The range of assessment methods at the University provided me with the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills that I am now applying to my personal development – presenting posters at conferences and to my peers and doing research to present to my occupational therapy team are just two examples. Having a personal tutor who took the time to get to know me and support me when I struggled with my studies was also great.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

The skill of being able to conduct research, which is of vital importance to my professional development, will be useful when demonstrating the role of occupational therapy in the ‘health and wellbeing of today’s citizens and future generations’ (College of Occupational Therapists 2016).

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

Placements are a great learning experience, where theory and practice become entwined.

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

Yes, several of the lectures had a significant impact on me personally and upon my studies as they believed in me when I doubted myself; they gave me the confidence that I may, in the future, spend time doing some research.  

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Yes, the teaching styles and assessment methods are so varied that they prepare you well for work by providing you with a range of skills.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

Create a balance in your life; leave yourself time to get your assignments done and to develop good research skills, as it will save you so much time. Utilise the library and learn how to search data bases, not just journals.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying Occupational Therapy, please visit our BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Health Professions, please visit the school page

Want to find similar alumni?

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