At the end of my June 2021 update, I promised to tell you more about why I have given myself a thesis deadline that is earlier than it "needs" to be. This early deadline is to try and make sure there is as little overlap as possible with the next step of my career, which is a bit of a change in direction.
In this blog post, I am happy to finally 'reveal' to you that...
From September, I will be studying at Cardiff University to train as an occupational therapist.
I am very excited to share this publicly, though those closer to me have known for some time. I accepted my offer back in March but have kept it quiet on social media. It perhaps comes as no surprise to some, since last year I shared that I was interested in a career in healthcare after my doctorate. I had already been contemplating occupational therapy, but needed some more time to learn if it was the right choice.
I first considered occupational therapy as a potential career in 2019, when I interviewed some occupational therapists at the early stages of my project. I asked them to break down the task of making a cup of instant coffee and was surprised to hear one of them talk about task analysis... a concept I had been reading about in Human-Computer Interaction text books earlier that year. One of my most popular blog posts about hierarchical task analysis was written just a few months before those interviews. This crossover has stayed with me, because it was one of the first examples of occupational therapy that made me think, "I could do that".
Although it is a career change, there are more similarities than first meet the eye, and my research project has unquestionably influenced my decision. I have always been drawn to projects that have a clear application. Of course, my project is all about trying to support people living with dementia, and as my doctorate has progressed, I have learned that working with people one-to-one is something that I enjoy doing. My time at the care home reinforced this awareness, which played a big part in me finally making the decision to apply for the occupational therapy course.
Most importantly, I owe it to the people I have worked closely with at Designability for inspiring me to want to be an occupational therapist. Before I started the project, I didn’t even know that occupational therapy existed! Meeting and working with occupational therapists at Designability, and everyone there whose aim it is to improve the lives of others, has helped me to realise what is important to me. I consider myself very lucky to have had the guidance of several occupational therapists, and I am incredibly grateful for all of their support and encouragement.
The more I have learned about the profession and its values, and the more I have learned about my own values, the more I have become enamoured with the person-centred yet structured approach to helping people do what is important to them. For me, occupational therapy is a profession that allows me to combine my technical and problem solving skills with my fundamental desire to help people directly.
Hopefully, sharing this news has added some clarity to why I am pushing to finish my doctorate sooner rather than later. I have made a new Twitter account to record my occupational therapy journey and to keep a professional account separate to my existing Twitter. Follow me over at @ThomasW_OT if you want to see how this next step of my career progresses!