I had wanted to work in the NHS from the age of 11

Suzanne Rastrick

20 / 1 / 2016 4.49pm

Suzanne Rastrick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer tells us what inspired her to work in the NHS in her blog for the #NHSwhereIstarted campaign.

I began my NHS career at the age of 21 as a support worker (technical instructor) at Poole general hospital.  This was whilst awaiting my professional qualification results and granting of professional registration to practice.

I had wanted to work in the NHS from the age of 11. My grandfather came to live with us on my seventh birthday, after my grandmother died. He had alzheimer’s and I helped with his care, he was bed bound, doubly incontinent and unable to feed himself. He died when I was 12, but the year before that, he was visited by a member of medical staff who spoke to my mother in a way that made me feel that I really could do better.

On my first day in the NHS I was full of anticipation, because right from the start I wanted to make a difference. This feeling remains with me to this day. It is what has underpinned my whole career.

The photograph of me was taken at Poole general hospital during my first basic grade occupational therapist rotation after qualifying. This focused on rehabilitating people to return to employment, caring or voluntary work after acute events such as road traffic accidents or strokes and elective procedures such as orthopaedic or neurological surgery. As occupational therapists are dual qualified professionals, many of the initial rotations after qualification included psychiatry as well as physical medicine surgery. This then gave a good perspective, later in ones career of choices that could be made available to, or signposted for, patients and their carers. And also variety of career settings too.

My background as an allied health professional has given me the grounding to hold other key roles in the service. I have been proud to hold director of nursing roles in both provider and commissioning organisations, leading truly multi professional teams.

And a memorable moment came during the London 2012 Olympics, when I was the Primary Care Trust (PCT) chief executive in Dorset, where the Olympic sailing events were being held in Weymouth and Portland. I was responsible for coordinating the health response in the event of an emergency, and provide access to healthcare for all Olympic VIPs, competitors, spectators and local residents during this time.  We were commended for our work across many agencies and I learned a great deal about the work of our other partners, including the military, Environment Agency and local authorities.

The NHS needs more young people to reflect that we serve the whole population throughout the life course.  Their fresh ideas are vital to designing and delivering new, innovative services. 
As I have found, the NHS, particularly working as one of the twelve allied health professions, can offer extremely rewarding and ever-changing careers, which develop as you do. If you want a career that allows you to make a real difference to people's lives and offer you the basis for other varied career options in the future, the 12 allied health professions allow you to do that.

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