All Roads Lead to OT: An Occupational Therapy Academic in the Making

Date 5 October 2022

Breanna Wagner blogs about why OT is something that has always been a part of her life, in one form or another.

Breanna Wagner

A decade ago, if you asked Breanna Wagner if she would study at university, she would have said — based on feedback from her school — a firm no.

Flash forward to the present day and she has not only completed a BSc in Occupational Therapy (OT) but has stayed on at the University of Northampton (UON), going into a Masters in the subject.

“As I look back, I see that occupational therapy has always been a part of my life. Ironic, considering I was told it was a profession I would never be able to work in.

“Some of my cousins have sensory needs and, as a child, I went into sensory rooms with them. These rooms help children improve how they process what they see, hear and touch and help develop their walking, balancing, and crawling.

“I was very young and didn’t understand what it meant to them, but it was this early experience that fired me with interest in occupational therapy, although I did not know a thing about the profession.

“As I grew up, I had lots of OT-related experience in my home of Alberta, Canada — babysitting for children with special needs, teaching swimming to disabled children, that sort of thing. But it was work placements with actual OT’s where I found out about the profession.

“I knew instantly it was the one for me, but I had devastating news. I didn’t get the grades at high school and was told I could never go to university. Effectively, I would never be an OT.

“I thought everything was over but after the bombshell, a beam of hope. The University of Northampton’s Occupational Therapy team came to my college and spoke with us and I was really interested in what they said about their degree programme.

“They got me thinking because I had bags of OT experience that could count for me in terms of an application. But I had many other things to consider: I didn’t know anyone in the UK, and did I want to travel halfway across the globe to study?

“The big thing about Canadian’s studying for an OT degree at Northampton is there is a study route where you start in the second year of an undergraduate degree, which is not something offered back home. At this point, I was more-or-less committed and completed the application. Two weeks later, I found out I’d been accepted. To say I was excited doesn’t do justice to how I felt!

“Moving to Northampton was definitely the right decision — probably the biggest I’ll ever make — as I went on to fall in love with everything I did at UON. Everything seemed so new and unique about the course.

“I got a 2:1 for my undergraduate degree but before I got to that point I was addicted — to learning! The academic bug, one I had been told would never bite me, had bitten hard, so I chose to continue my studies with the MSc in Occupational Therapy.

“At the time of penning this blog I am only three weeks in and there are so many new things to learn, but with the modules for this course again there is that feeling of uniqueness. I love everything about the MSc as it’s a great way of thinking about things I know, building on them, and expanding the knowledge from UG course and my background experience in Canada.

“As I felt during my undergraduate course, the lecturers continue to be fantastic. They provide the tools you need to be a sound OT the on placement and they help you apply all of this when you go on placement. Everything makes sense as soon as you get there because they had already brought these things to life in the classroom.

“They are also there whenever you need them. I have Irlan Syndrome, a condition where your brain can get over-activated by things such as written words, that can appear all over the place. With the guidance of the University’s ASSIST team, I have grown as a writer and completed my assignments with great success.

“Naturally, I see myself working with children and teenagers with autism and other developmental disorders, but I do see myself as coming back to academia as I am addicted to the concept of lifelong learning! I’m just glad that, after a bit of a knock at high school, I’m on the right road to being the OT I have wanted for so long.”

Find out more about the MSc in Occupational Therapy.

Breanna Wagner
Breanna Wagner

Breanna is a Masters Student in Occupational Therapy, and also completed her BSs in Occupational therapy at the University.