Occupational therapy assistant scoops national ‘Unsung Hero Award’

Occupational therapy assistant Becca Carlson was recently recognised for her dedication and commitment whilst working as an apprentice for the Newcastle Hospitals, when she was presented with a national Unsung Heroes Award.

Becca was put forward for the ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award by her supervisor, Deb Gardner - an advanced occupational therapist (OT) who works at the RVI’s Great North Children’s Hospital.

Becca receiving her award from Judge Kathy Cowell OBE DL, and Host Jake Mills

The nomination describes how Becca regularly goes above and beyond during her working day. Not long after starting her apprenticeship, she took the lead in the ward’s new ‘Pets As Therapy’ scheme, where a specially trained therapy dog and its owner make weekly visits to children on the ward, and she creatively reads stories to children and their families during ‘Story Time’.

These activities are part of a unique OT initiative called ‘Theme Based Therapy’ which currently only takes place on Ward 1b in Newcastle upon Tyne. The ward provides specialist rehabilitation for children with severe neurological problems, and most are unable to talk.

Limited communication can prove challenging for many people but Becca talks confidently to the children, informing them of her role and what this means, and adapts her communication style depending on the age of the child or young person she is working with. Becca says she is now keen to learn sign language.

Prior to interviewing for the Apprentice role, her supervisor Deb asked parents what they would look for in an OT Assistant. All said it was important to have someone who would talk to both them and their child. Recently a mum stated: “Becca explains thing simply so that parents understand. She is a very nice personable young lady.”

Ewan Dick,Associate Director of Allied Health Professionals & Psychological Therapies says: “I was introduced to Becca after she was nominated for the award and spent time chatting to her and her supervisor Deb in the therapy department on the ward.  Whilst she comes across as quiet and a little shy, she has a calm and assured manner that has helped her be such a success as an apprentice OT Assistant.

“It is a credit to her how well she is able to manage the challenging needs of the patients, supports their parents and delivers OT therapeutic activities while also managing the apprenticeship programme. It is no surprise that she blew away the judges and we are so proud that she won the award - she is such a valued member of the team.” 

On winning the award Becca says: "To have won Apprentice of the Year 2020 was the best feeling. I absolutely love my job and for the work I do to be highlighted is very special and something I will never forget."

Becca has now finished her apprenticeship and works full time as a much valued OT Assistant at the Great North Children’s Hospital.

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