Occupational Therapist - Neema Patel 

Before becoming an occupational therapist, Neema Patel thought about doing a desk job - much to her family’s surprise. They’d always seen her as someone who was constantly “on the go”.

Fast forward a few years and Neema is a senior OT working in the acute medical unit and emergency department at University College Hospital, and is as busy as ever. That’s how she likes it.

“I like a fast-paced environment where you have to make decisions quickly. I also like to analyse things and solve problems. The great thing here is that it’s very multi-disciplinary team-based. Working in the acute medical unit and emergency department, we have to make decisions quickly, so we need to make those decisions together.”

For Neema, an important feature at University College Hospital is the way therapy is valued. “The key is how therapy is seen. That it’s recognised and supported. What is really great here is that we have good relationships with the consultants and the doctors, and that is so important.”

“I like a fast-paced environment where you have to make decisions quickly. I also like to analyse things and solve problems."

In emergency care, the “classic” sort of patient she would see is someone over 65 who has fallen and been brought into hospital. “Perhaps they’re still a bit off balance and we have to decide if it’s safe for them to return home. We assess their current abilities compared to how they were before they came to hospital and see whether they’re safe to return home with any equipment needed to support safety and independence. We also refer patients to community colleagues for on-going support.

The appeal of occupational therapy is the blend of assessment, analysis and problem-solving. Neema said: “I like to see patients satisfied and getting them back home and improving their independence. The change you can make to someone’s life is quite significant.

“Often we find that people have been struggling with mobility for a long time and they don’t know what is available to help keep them independent and at home. We’re trying to help them live a fuller life – whether that’s helping them return to work or helping them to look after themselves at home.”

Neema is on rotation, so she will work in a range of care settings before she decides on her specialist area. Her next stop is surgery.

Initially, Neema set out three criteria for work – to be based in London, in a teaching hospital, that was a centre of excellence. University College Hospital fitted all three, she said, and more.