What do you do, Sarah?

Sarah is a clinical specialist occupational therapist at Evelina London
Colourful question marks drawn by a child

""October 2022

What do you do?

I'm a neonatal occupational therapist. I work on the neonatal unit supporting parents whose babies have been born prematurely or who have other medical complications which are likely to impact their development.

Why did you get into the role?

I got into the role because I was already a children’s occupational therapist, working with older children with neurological conditions. I was interested in working with newborn babies as I know the earlier we can get involved, the better the outcomes for children and families. It made sense to start working with the babies at the beginning of their journey.

Why do you love your job?

I love my job because I can help parents and carers interpret their baby’s behaviour so they can understand their baby's needs and wants before they can talk. I support parents and carers to feel confident caring for their baby during feeding, bathing, early play and interaction.

What is your proudest moment?

I'm proud of a lot of the work I have been involved with over the years. For example, I helped develop practice guidelines and a career development framework to support occupational therapists move into neonatal care. I am also the lead occupational therapist for the London neonatal operational delivery network, which aims to increase the amount of occupational therapists working on neonatal units across London. But of course, the ""main driving force for doing the job is making a difference to the babies and their families. I supported Patrick and his parents, Michelle and Mark, when he was a baby. I was then able to offer him occupational therapy when he was transferred to Evelina London which contributed towards his developmental progress. His progress which was so much better than any of us expected! Patrick has a complex medical condition affecting his breathing and movement which impacts his ability to be positioned during bathing, nappy changes ""and play. I helped his parents adapt these activities so that Patrick could participate and enjoy them. He is now nearly 3 years old and doing extremely well at home, crawling, communicating and playing with everything! He was the star of the show at his parents wedding!

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

Neonatal occupational therapists are specialists in supporting babies' behavioural and sensory development. Early intervention is really important so we can help babies as soon as possible. We can help parents and carers to understand their baby’s condition and feel confident in the support they are providing, improving their own mental health and wellbeing. We help parents, carers and their babies to regulate their behaviour and responses, so they can participate in things like sleeping, eating and social interactions. We can also help reduce the negative impact of being in a hospital environment on the baby's development through family integrated care.

Why is it important to celebrate allied health professional (AHP) day?

It is important to celebrate the unique skills and value that AHPs can add to neonatal team. AHPs 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, Kerry? As a neonatal and paediatric occupational therapist, Kerry shares helps parents and carers to understand their baby's behavioural cues so that they can nurture their baby's development.
  • What do you do, Pauline? Read about why Pauline is proud to work in Evelina London community services.
  • What do you do, Maxine? As a play service manager, Maxine advocates for and supports children and young people throughout their hospital journey.