My Experience as a Paediatric OT in London
by Zandri Edser
Zandri qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 2009 from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. She specialises in the field of Paediatrics and has developed her skills within a variety of different settings. After graduating, Zandri worked in an acute government hospital environment in South Africa, seeing both paediatric and adult patients. She then went on to work for a non-profit organisation, providing therapy services to children living in children's homes as well as supporting them through the adoption process. Thereafter she moved into the private sector, initially running her own independent practice within a clinic as well as school settings for a number of years. In 2018, her family made the move to the UK, where she has been working in London within the private sector (with The OT Practice (TOTP) specifically for the last 2 years or so).
What do you enjoy most about private work?
I thrive on the autonomy of being in private practice, being able to take on as much or as little work depending on what suits me and my life at the time. Working as an associate with TOTP, I have found my perfect middle ground. Not only does it allow me flexibility in how and when I work, but also offers great support on an administrative and business level. I chose my line of work in order to help others and ultimately deliver the therapy I have trained to do, not to chase unpaid invoices, source referrals and the like. While this is very much a part of private practice, TOTP fills much of that role, meaning I can focus the majority of my energy on my clients. It also allows me the freedom to take up other work should I choose to do so.
What type of cases do you get to work on?
Since joining TOTP, the variety of cases and scope of my work has increased dramatically. I am exposed to a great variety of conditions such as ASD, CP, Downs syndrome, learning difficulties, dyspraxia, as well as some very rare conditions that I had previously not had experience with. This has allowed me to grow my knowledge and skills as a therapist. Although my favourite children to work with are the little ones, I have also had opportunities to work with adolescents and young adults, something which has further broadened my skill set. I have had the opportunity to take up school contract work where my role is more supportive and classroom based as opposed to direct therapy sessions.
What about logistics?
It can be daunting having to arrange and layout sessions on your own but I have found that if you are organised and arrange your sessions cleverly (in similar locations, around school lunch times, carrying out remote sessions at the beginning or end of the day, factoring in admin time etc), it is easy to fit in a large number of sessions throughout the week.
I have 2 days per week where I see 3-4 weekly therapy children, 1 day that is flexible where I can carry out less frequent sessions such as half termly reviews, new assessments or school contract work and 1 day that I allocate towards administrative tasks such as report writing, developing home programs etc. I also spend 1 day per week working in a clinic setting in a separate private capacity.
Many people are put off by travelling in London, however the vast amount of choice the city offers you in this regard makes it fairly easy. Most often I take public transport, using the time to relax, read or catch up on my session notes or emails. At times I will hire a car or use a taxi service when needs be but most often my travel time is time that I can use for myself. London itself is a huge referral source and there is definitely no lack of work available to me.
Remote working is also something that has become prevalent as part of my work with TOTP. This has allowed me to fit in more assessments or therapy sessions as I don’t have to spend my time travelling. TOTP have supported this process seamlessly and it is now a normal part of my scope as a therapist.
On my days visiting clients, I tend to have a bag of tricks that I pack depending on who I will be seeing. I also have a deflated therapy ball with a portable pump that I take with me on some days however many schools or clients that I see at their homes have equipment such as therapy balls, trampolines and even swings available so this is not something I consistently have to have with me. As well as this, not having constant access to large therapy equipment has encouraged me to be more creative and adaptable in my therapy and often allows for improved hand over of skills as many children won’t have these items available to them in their home anyway.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into private practice?
I have worked in many different settings throughout my career, but I have most enjoyed working in the private practice sphere. There are potential challenges of private practice such as increased responsibility, fluctuation in income or having periods of decreased earning for example during school holidays. However, I find that if you plan well, this does not negatively influence lifestyle or overall annual income. For me, the autonomy, flexibility and the scope of work available to me through private practice and specifically TOTP is worth the other aspects that may be seen as negatives.
If you are wanting to undertake a role in private practice, make sure that you are organised, willing to work hard when needs be, are adaptable and confident in your skill set as a therapist. Should you then work with a supportive company such as TOTP, you will soon be paving your way in the private practice world.