Jaydam Tierney had wanted to be an occupational therapist since school, and is now enjoying the fast-paced environment of the emergency department.

What does an occupational therapist do?

I work as an occupational therapist in the emergency department, so I support our patients to do essential tasks – such as being able to get up, wash and dress (with or without support), go to the toilet and to eat and drink. We also help patients do the tasks that are meaningful to them, such as taking part in a particular activity. I signpost them to additional support depending on their needs so they can access the most appropriate help. Doctors and nurses make the patient medically fit, but we support them in their lives so they can stay well, mentally and physically.

What is a typical day for you?

Emergency medicine is very fast paced and you never know who you will be seeing that day. We start by prioritising the patients we have in that morning to make sure the most urgent are seen first. We assess them and work on a plan to address their essential and meaningful needs. Because everything changes so quickly, we prioritise patients again at lunchtime. As I am also a clinical leader, I make sure my team has the skills and resources they need to do their jobs. I also offer expertise for patients with complex needs.

What made you want to become an occupational therapist?

I grew up in a small town in Australia where there wasn’t an occupational therapist. My brother needed one and he had to travel to Sydney, and my dad had issues with his spinal chord and he had to travel to another town. When I started school, they asked us to write down what we wanted to be when we were older. When I was shown it after I left school, I saw I had put occupational therapist! I studied a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and qualified as an occupational therapist in Australia in 2014 before coming to the UK.

What is the best part of the job?

I work with a huge variety of people – you never know who you will be seeing next. I enjoy this variety as it means I am continually learning.

What is the worst part?

We offer support and signposting for patients when they come into the emergency department, but as they will move onto a different service when they are medically fit enough, we don’t always see the result of our initial work. However, I think the benefits of being able to offer patients initial support outweighs this and I enjoy being able to help them when they are first admitted to hospital.

Would you encourage people to apply to UCLH to be an occupational therapist?

UCLH is a great place to work. It is such a big organisation with some of the top clinicians in their areas, so there are fantastic opportunities for learning. Despite its size, UCLH doesn’t feel too big and the team is really supportive. You know everyone and they are always willing to help you learn and share their knowledge which is really important. As shown through COVID-19, everyone at UCLH is great at pulling together and supporting each other.