Once upon a time in Derriford…


Once upon a time in the deep depth of Devon, there was a hospital named Derriford. It was the largest hospital in the south west and everyday patients from across the realm would flood in with many illnesses, disabilities and traumas in the hope that they could be healed. The patients would be seen by the doctors and nurses and once better, would return home and live happily ever after?

Now I don’t know about you, but my working day sounds nothing like that?!

Unfortunately, not every patient journey is quite like a fairy-tale. As we all know, many of our patients have long term, chronic conditions alongside a multitude of co-morbidities. This can mean that their hospital stay is longer, and their ability to carry about their day-to-day life once they return home, can be difficult. Illnesses, disability, trauma and ageing can mean that the activities our patients want, or need to do, can feel impossible.

And that’s where we come in.

For many years now a small, but mighty, army of green trousers has worked in the shadows of Derriford Hospital to help our patients stay in their own homes and live life as independently as possible; we are your Occupational Therapists!

Firstly, for those of you that still don’t fully understand the role we play within the hospital, I apologise. So first things first…what do we do?

Now already, I know a few of you are sat reading this thinking ‘I’ve seen you guys around, you give out toilet frames’, or ‘you help people get jobs’ (that one never gets old), or even think we give patients cups of tea? There are misunderstandings in all lines of work; I’m here to hopefully help set the story straight and give you a better idea of what we do in the Trust to help our patients and, potentially, how we can help you too.

Occupational Therapy – In a nutshell

We support people at their most vulnerable, which in these times, when to some, patients’ may appear as just a body on a bed sheet, a statistic or an illness, a number. But as Occupational Therapists, like so many other teams and roles (not only our AHP and HCS colleagues but from our colleagues across the whole Trust) we still see the person, for who they are, the individual, with wants and needs and roles in their life. We see the parent, the husband, the widow, the dog owner. We provide practical support to empower patients to facilitate their recovery and overcome barriers preventing them from doing the activities (or occupations) that matter to them. This support increases people’s independence and satisfaction in all aspects of life.

And this support can take many forms; whether it be utilising adaptive equipment to enable independence, teaching pacing strategies to those who have respiratory conditions that limit their ability to carry out their daily activities, or even recommending the type of care and support someone may need to support their safe return to their own home.

In the many varied roles and wards we cover, we all fight for the same cause: to help patients to be more independent and enable their lives to continue after a hospital admission and quite possibly, live happily ever after.

I hope that helps to give you a better understanding of what we do. But if that doesn’t help, I once read that ‘A Doctor will save your life, and an Occupational Therapist will help you live it” – I personally couldn’t put it better myself but of course, I am a little biased!

Sam Whiting

Occupational Therapist


Sam is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Occupational Therapy, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.

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