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From circus performer to occupational therapist

We caught up with Dan Shelton, one of our Occupational Therapist Degree Apprentices, about his experiences on the programme and how it has impacted his work.

Dan Shelton, Apprentice Occupational Therapist, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust:

“My background was actually in circus performance and other creative art forms, so I’ve always loved working with people and had a passion for creative problem-solving. I first got into therapy work when I was injured during the Olympic torch relay and was treated by a physiotherapist with a similar background to mine, which inspired me to go down a similar path.

“I joined the NHS as a physiotherapy assistant and found the variety of work and connection with clients incredibly rewarding. I wanted to delve deeper into the more holistic side of this work, where I discovered occupational therapy and fell in love with its aims and approaches. I was lucky enough to be successful in applying for an apprenticeship with my current employer.

“As a mature student, and a new homeowner, taking time out from work to study and not being able to earn a salary, would have made being a full-time student incredibly challenging. The apprenticeship has allowed me to continue to work, whilst studying at the University of Brighton, which both contribute simultaneously, to being a fully qualified occupational therapist.

“My career goal is to incorporate some of my creative thinking into my work and be able to support people with beneficial life changes or help work towards recovery from injury or illness, which I find really rewarding. Occupational therapy enables me to do this, and as my studies progress, the more I learn about the profession and the wide range of opportunities in this developing field. Maybe if you’d have asked me about my career goals as a child, I might have said film star or owning a magical chocolate factory.

“The apprenticeship has allowed me to take on a number of different placements in a variety of fields, which has helped me gain a wider range of experience. We use the problem-based learning method at the University of Brighton, which I have been able to apply in many different work-based scenarios. As someone who has dyslexia, I found certain aspects of study challenging, but the support provided by the university and my employer has been a really positive experience.

“Studying at any age is incredibly rewarding because you learn so much about your chosen subject and it enables you to draw on such a wide variety of experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. You meet lots of new people who inspire you and you take what you learn with you into your future careers.

“I think that the apprenticeship route is a fantastic opportunity because it enables employment security in addition to learning and provides a clear career path. For my employer, the apprenticeship route creates a unique training opportunity to develop the workforce, upskill and motivate passionate people – and with a four-year course on a part-time basis and promotion to qualified clinician after passing the course, it guarantees commitment from an employee perspective.”

Find out more about studying to be an occupational therapist or other Allied Health Professional on the University of Brighton website. 

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Kerry Burnett • July 18, 2022


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