What do you do, Kerry?

Kerry Engelbrecht is a neonatal and paediatric occupational therapist in Evelina London children's services

Colourful question marks drawn by a child


""October 2023

What do you do?

I am a neonatal and paediatric occupational therapist in Evelina London children's services, part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust. My current role is split across Evelina London and Royal Brompton Hospital.

I work on the neonatal unit at Evelina London and get the chance to make a big impact at the start of a child’s life. I also work in the neurodevelopmental therapy team at Royal Brompton Hospital, working with infants and newborns, supporting their development and promoting family-centred care.

Why did you get into the role?

I'm passionate about the positive impact occupational therapy can have on families and their infants along their journey. I have always been interested in being a part of a patient's journey right from the very start of their life. Watching babies progress and having a job where you can feel the difference you make daily is a great encouragement. Playing even just a small part of that process makes this job the only thing I ever want to do.  

Why do you love your job?

I genuinely love what my job allows me to do. I love connecting with the babies and children I work with and enjoy building special relationships with families and other healthcare professionals who are caring for the families alongside me. It is a privilege to work at Evelina London and as part of some great teams, each of us with the common goal to make a difference to the children and families that we care for. We can turn a difficult, vulnerable and scary time into one that holds fond memories, life changing achievements and the very best beginning for those that find themselves here. 

What is your proudest moment?

I have so many proud moments. I love working with the children and their families. Knowing I have made a positive difference in their lives gives me great job satisfaction and a huge sense of achievement. One example that comes to mind is seeing a baby finally go home after many months and days when we didn’t know if she would survive. Watching her family prepare to take her home after so many months of uncertainty caused tears of joy to fill their (and our) eyes. My colleagues and I gave all our love and happiness to this family. It was and is an amazing experience to play that part in someone’s life. 

I also love seeing the progression and the growth in parents. When you first meet a lot of parents they're scared and worried, they feel like they're not good enough to be parents. And by the end of the journey they're strong, they're empowered, they know what they're doing and they can advocate for their babies. That is one of the best things to see.

What are the main benefits of occupational therapy in a neonatal context?

Occupational therapists bring a unique perspective in the neonatal context through their scientific background, knowledge of development and of the sensory and neurological systems. We also understand mental health and wellbeing and the importance of an individual’s environment. We support parents by listening to each family's story, watching every baby’s unique behaviour and adapting the sensory environment to support connections.

We provide developmentally appropriate care, helping babies to sleep, feed, play, interact and regulate their body systems. A key role for neonatal occupational therapists is enabling parents and carers to nurture their baby’s development. We help them learn about and respond to their baby’s behavioural cues and signs of stress.

We support parents to carry out activities such as settling and holding their baby, bathing them and helping them cope with medical procedures. Occupational therapists also help parents prepare for their discharge home.

Parents may experience challenges with psychological adjustment and mental health issues. Occupational therapists support newborns and their parents to develop successful coping strategies. We can help reduce the negative impact of being in a hospital environment, on the infant’s development through using family integrated care. It is a very versatile field in which you have the opportunity to work with many different populations of patients.

Neonatal occupational therapists have the extraordinary opportunity to positively influence the life trajectory of these tiny humans right from the start, and what a privilege that is!

Why is it important to celebrate allied health professions (AHPs) day?

Allied health professions (AHPs) day celebrates, appreciates and recognises the vital contribution made by AHPs to health and care services. It allows us to showcase the impact we make to the delivery of high-quality care, promote our professions, and celebrate our skills and achievements. I hope AHPs day encourages others to start a career in one of these incredibly important roles. We collaborate with medical colleagues to provide the best possible care for our patients and their families.

Colourful question marks drawn by a child

Thank you to the children and young people who have so brilliantly illustrated our blog pages.

What do you do?

We love highlighting our staff and their amazing career journeys.

Read other pieces in this series:

  • What do you do, Maya? As a speech and language therapist, Maya supports babies' feeding and communication skills.
  • What do you do, Trupti? As a physiotherapist, Trupti supports children to manage their conditions so they can remain safe and enjoying life.
  • What do you do, David? As a consultant in paediatric and fetal cardiology at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, David uses MRI to help diagnose heart problems in babies that are in the womb.

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