Callum’s journey into Occupational Therapy

Callum MacKinnon (Occupational Therapy Lead) at bOunceT reflects on his experience of leaving high school with no idea ‘what to do’, participating in Camp America, then switching university courses from International Business to Occupational Therapy. Finally, he explains what we loves about being an Occupational Therapist!

“…when you strip the profession and people back to its core – away from the often very prestigious and hierarchical structure of specialist/ highly specialist clinical areas of practice – our values are the same and our role is as simple as helping people do what they need to, want to, or have to do.”

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I did not know that I wanted to become an occupational therapist until I was already in University studying international business – a totally different subject!

High school – high hopes?

In all honesty, I did not know what I wanted to ‘be’ when I left high school and the easiest thing to do was ‘do what everyone else was’ – apply for UCAS. All of a sudden, there was rivalry and competition between my year group about who was going to study what, and where. When I reflect on my final year application, I wonder how I even got accepted for anything! I was so unsure what I wanted to do that I made my personal statement too broad, and submitted applications to study Geography & Education, International Business, Business Management & Psychology……probably all just because i enjoyed learning about these subjects. Eventually, I was accepted into Glasgow Caledonian University to study International Business, but I still had no idea ‘what area of business to specialise within’ e.g. Business with Enterprise/ Finance/ Marketing/ Law……

I enjoyed a typical first year experience socialising, making new friends and learning how higher education worked. However, I often felt insignificant to my peers within the business cohort as it is a broad subject across many universities, and in our ‘large lecturers’ we were pushing 500+ (first year!) students across various business classes (business management, fashion business, international business).

At the end of a fun first year of University, I participated in Camp America where I worked abroad for the summer (the fantastic Camp Loyaltown) ; another reason why I applied for international business over ‘general’ business management, as I had an urge to travel. I had been placed at a summer camp for individuals with disabilities after attending a recruitment fair in Edinburgh. Initially I was petrified! I had never worked with anyone who had additional support needs, let alone anyone with different disabilities. However, at the time, I thought I will go and even if I the role is ‘not for me’ then I will still have a great experience working abroad and I can travel after it, etc.

Oh how wrong I was….
I discovered a passion for working with people of all ages with learning disabilities – even before the summer was over I had already started to look at different university courses and jobs in this field.

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USA flag – Camp Loyaltown Hunter, NY (New York state)
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Travelling USA after 3 month placement in up-state New York (NY) : Picture at Grant Canyon, Arizona

Career change

Once back in the UK, and back to GCU for second year, I realised my priorities had changed dramatically. This was the year we were applying to move and study abroad for 3rd year in a partner institution – but this was no longer what I wanted to do. So, as my friends secured placements in USA, Canada & Europe, I successfully completed an internal transfer to study Occupational Therapy from September 2013.
This was after having ‘found’ occupational therapy online. With only the small amount of information I read on Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) website about their BSc (Hons) OT course, I was drawn to finding out more. I knew my passion was to help people – specifically people with learning disabilities – so having read on this website buzzwords like ‘independence’, ‘meaningful activity’, ‘activities of daily living’, this made my mind race about how becoming an occupational therapist would allow me to do do what I wanted to do as a job! It was this information that deterred me away from choosing another allied health professions (AHP) university course, or nursing, as at the time of applying to become an occupational therapist I thought the other roles were too medical and ‘too hard’. This may have been because I failed biology in high school, therefore would never have thought about applying for physiotherapy or nursing as they are typically biology and science focused. In addition, whilst studying business at university, I met friends who were student nurses and physiotherapists and I remember thinking ‘I could never do their job’.

I would have never imagined that I would set up a business within the same area of work as them just a few years later!

What do I love about being an occupational therapist?

Simply, I love being an occupational therapist because you are able to help people do things that actually mean something to them, instead of ‘fixing’ something or someone.

Occupational therapy is often ‘sold’ to both people working as a therapist, and to people using therapist services, as being a diverse profession that can work across many different services. I believe this has significant benefits to what a large impact occupational therapy can have on people’s lives, how it can make this impact, and why it can help (e.g. mentally and physically).

However, when you strip the profession and people back to its core – away from the often very prestigious and hierarchical structure of specialist/ highly specialist clinical areas of practice – our values are the same and our role is as simple as helping people do what they need to, want to, or have to do.

Obviously, this can be different depending on where you work, and that is the beauty of occupational therapy – we often ‘need’ to be creative both in our practice how we work with people, but also how we do this, for example working across different sectors, teams and services, (in-patient, community, charities, private practice).

This can be achieved by all therapists no matter what tools are in their tool box; or in my case within my business, no matter what toys are in my playbox!
Finally, I love that my role as an occupational therapist aligns so well with being an entrepreneur, as I feel empowered to do good in new ways and structures that can better the outcomes for the people I am working with.

Overall, I believe this develops the contribution/ impact, role and diversity of occupational therapy.

CALLUM MACKINNON
Founder & Occupational Therapy Lead

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