School of Health & Social Care

Student views

Olivia Gilgunn

Olivia has started a successful career in OT, and a social enterprise based on her final placement.

Olivia Gilgunn

BSc (Hons) Occupational Therapy

What brought you to study at Teesside University?

I’m Irish and I decided to study in the UK because I would have more opportunities as a student to gain experience in a wide variety of sectors. Teesside University really appealed to me from how they pitched the degree layout on the website. I particularly liked the opportunity to go on regular placements. Occupational Therapy always stood out as a profession most suited to me. It’s unique in healthcare because of its holistic nature. It treats the whole individual and addresses the importance of the individual’s psychological and emotional well-being as well as their physical needs. It enables individuals of all ages and abilities to engage in the activities and occupations that are meaningful to their lives, and understands how this in turn can have a positive effect on the individual's overall well-being and health.

What was the course like?

I was very fortunate that my course allowed me the opportunity to have a wide range of placements, including mental health, physical health and learning disabilities and also inpatient and community work. We also had the opportunity the complete a role-emerging placement for our final placement. Role-emerging placements are placements set in non-traditional settings – schools, leisure centres, residential homes etc., which do not have Occupational Therapy input. This gave me the chance to work autonomously as a professional and to gain skills which I did not practise in my previous traditional placements (for example, creative, budgeting and marketing skills) which have proven to be very useful in my working career.

I was an active member of the Occupational Therapy Society at the University. This was a useful resource when meeting students in the years above – again, this was another supportive resource. By being a member, I also had the opportunity to partake in fundraisers, listen to speakers and attend courses that I would not have done otherwise.

What are you doing now?

I have been working in Scarborough Hospital since the beginning of December 2013, working full time on the elderly medical wards. My role entails picking up and prioritising appropriate referrals and assessing their current needs on the ward to facilitate a safe discharge home, promoting their independence always. Another aspect of my role is to delegate appropriate clinical tasks to support staff and ensure those tasks are carried out to the appropriate standard. My role is mainly within the hospital environment, however I sometimes venture out into the community to assess a patient’s safety within their own home or else to assess the patient’s home for equipment provision. I work closely with all member of the multidisciplinary team in supporting the patients along their pathway of care from pre admission through to discharge. Communication is essential.

As well as the above, which has been the main focus since graduating, I have also been working alongside my business partner in the development of our Social Enterprise, ‘Sensory Voyages’. The business started as a final year project during our final practice placement which was a six week role-emerging placement at a residential home primarily for adults with neurological conditions. From this we identified a gap for Occupational Therapy through sensory stimulation.

'Sensory Voyages' are original stories which involve the senses, including vision, touch, sound and smell through the use of guided imagery. Unique scripts are used to guide each Sensory Voyage. Our idea is that every story should engage the majority of these senses. Our stories involve the use of visuals, sounds, projected images and apply tactile awareness. Sensory Voyages aim to provide sensory stimulation, relaxation and reminiscence.
Guided imagery is used as the foundation of our stories. We have adapted this further by ensuring Sensory Voyage story scripts are as descriptive as possible, by including as many active adjectives. This ensures that the story 'comes alive'.

Sensory Voyages has been featured in the June 2013 issue of OT News, the September/October 2013 edition of Able magazine and also on Teesside University’s web page. We have also presented Sensory Voyages at an annual Neurological conference in 2013 and I have been fortunate to have won the Professor Oglesby Prize for Achievement at the University with my business partner – all thanks to Sensory Voyages. We have worked very closely with the staff in the business school in Teesside University who have been a massive help, seeing as neither of us had a business background.