Richard O'Connell

Richard O'Connell is a band 5 therapy assistant co-ordinator at Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

I joined the CSP approximately 16 years ago to belong to a professional body that understood my work role from a grassroots perspective, in addition to providing support and representation if and when needed.

What career aspirations did you have for when you left school? Did you know what you wanted to do?

My first career was a far cry from today. I started in engineering, influenced greatly from a traditional family expectation back when I was all of 16 years old. Deep down I always knew I wanted to work in the caring professions. In my spare time I volunteered through the St John Ambulance.

However my turning point was when I tragically lost my best friend unexpectedly. Following his death I decided life was too short and I gave up everything for a 14-hour week HCA role at BCH in a small 12-bedded trauma unit. At the time I was met with resistance by turning my back on tradition and well-paid engineering career, but it turned out to be the best move ever.

Has your career path been different to the way you expected it to go? What made it different?

When I started out I could never have guessed that I would be where I am today as a band 5 assistant practitioner managing a team of therapy support workers. In the early years of my career there was little in the way of training, let alone any thought of extended scope of practice for support workers!

The key factor has been the backing of a forward-thinking therapy manager, Davina Brazier. Without her recognition of ability, trust and investment I do not think myself or my current team would be where it is today.

What have been your biggest surprises in your career so far?

I’d have to say that the biggest surprise would be the fact that I’m now working on the ward where I started my NHS career working 14 hours a week as a Grade A care assistant 18 years ago, and having now gone full circle. Talk about deja vu!

Another time I was summoned to the chief executive’s office thinking the worst only to be offered tea and biscuits and a personal thank-you for my work on a trust wheelchair project and presentation to the board to improve patient safety and experience.

Being nominated for directorate star of the month back in 2014 for recognition as an example of best clinical practice was also another “OMG” moment particularly as the nomination came from the Director of Nursing following patient feedback.

How has your CSP helped you in your career?

Having been an active member of the CSP both as West Midlands regional Health & Safety Rep and having served 2 years on the Associate Board I can honestly say this experience has truly enhanced and broadened my horizons in more ways than I can explain.

One particular memory I am proud of is having successfully presented at the associate’s conference with a presentation named 'May Contain Nuts'. It was on the history of Health & Safety in order to encourage other associates to becoming safety reps. I wore full protective clothing in front of more than 100 delegates!

If you could give one message to your peers from what you have learnt in your career, what would it be?

Seek out opportunities and conquer! When you see an opportunity don’t always feel the need to ask. That's initiative. Stay within professional boundaries but don’t be frightened of pushing them and get stuck in! By doing so, you’re likely to develop your role and thus create further opportunities for you, your career progression and your service.