In Issue 25, Kate Sheehan discusses the importance of self care in the workplace.

Words by Kate Sheehan

We are all aware of the importance of looking after ourselves – eat the correct things, drink lots of water, exercise and make sure you have a work life balance, but do we look after ourselves professionally?

As an ageing therapist, I have begun to reflect more about my career, what I would have done differently and what I can do now to enhance it prior to retirement, so here are my top tips after 31 years working in the field.


Make sure your physical work environment enables you to be physically fit and healthy. Does the ward/department allow you to work safely with your patients? Do you have the right chair to sit on when writing up notes, are you able to get up and walk around and stretch if sitting for long periods. Do you have the right IT to enable you to complete your work in a timely and effective manner?

If it is not, put together a plan on how it can be changed to support everyone in the team/department.

Mental health

Make sure your work environment is not damaging psychologically. This is particularly important as bullying, negative management, a blame culture or one individual who targets their wrath against you due to their own inadequacies can have a impact for years and be hugely detrimental to your own mental wellbeing.

If at all possible challenge the behaviour, if not, move on, change jobs, it is not always easy to do but sometimes it is essential, but do mention it in your exit interview as your reason for leaving, try and make sure another therapist will not have the same negative experience.


Make sure you have time to reflect, this need not be in work time, it could be on the drive home, a walk in your local community or during a swim, however it is vital to make you a better therapist, manager or educator. Remember we do not get it right all the time, don’t beat yourself up, own the situation, learn from it and never be too big to apologise.

Continued Professional Development

You must give yourself time to learn, none of us stopped learning the moment we walked out of college or university. Make a plan at the beginning of the year of what your needs are, research how you can fill the gaps of your knowledge, accept that you might need to invest your own time and money to achieve what you want to achieve.

Look at what is on offer free of charge, as a considerable number of shows, companies and organisations are putting on high quality training. If you look more creatively at how you can achieve your goals it is amazing what you can do, consider shadowing a colleague, researching and writing an article for The OT Magazine, developing and presenting a seminar at The OT Show, remember learning is not just about sitting in a classroom.


Develop a network of inspirational and like-minded therapists that can assist you in developing your own knowledge and skills, never be reticent to go up and talk to someone, they might be the key to unlock the next stage of your career.

Supervision and mentoring

This has, for me, been the most important thing. Having professional support, for my clinical, professional and business development has been the best investment over the years. It has allowed me to discuss ideas, develop a plan, question my clinical input, provide me with a different point of view and most importantly challenged me to be a better occupational therapist, business owner and manager.

So find yourself a good mentor or supervisor and take your career forward in a new direction.

P.S. I am not sure I will ever retire, I love my profession too much!

Kate Sheehan

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