Case study: Ruth's story
46 years old
Simple tasks that are important to Ruth:
- • Creating things from knitted garments to cooking meals
- • Spending time with family and friends
- • Being outdoors enjoying the elements
Ruth’s career: "It is a highly rewarding area of work"
Ruth began her career with a diploma in occupational therapy, and after some time abroad returned to England to specialise in rheumatology. After seven years in this role the opportunity came to go into higher education, which has led Ruth to becoming a lecturer. Ruth qualified from the University of Ulster in 1988 with a diploma in occupational therapy, although originally her aspirations to work in the caring profession led her to want to be a nurse. "The waiting list for a place in nursing was too long – over a year, so I decided on occupational therapy (OT) as it seemed much more exciting and creative". Ruth began working in Belfast before spending the next ten years moving around country and the world, ended working as far away as Australia, experiencing many different areas of work as an OT including hand therapy, vocational rehabilitation, neuro-rehabilitation and care of the elderly areas of practice.
Upon returning Ruth decided to return to rheumatology at the British Royal Infirmary, and ended deciding to stay in the area due to the rewards that it offered. ‘It was during this time that I realised rheumatology was definitely the specialism for me particularly as patients seemed always ready to try out new ideas for overcoming barriers and as it was a highly rewarding area of work from an OT perspective. This `can do attitude` of the patients I was working with set the seeds of thought in me which would become a focus for my own research.’
After seven years Ruth found the opportunity to go in to higher education, and became a lecturer at Cardiff University. Despite this career move, Ruth has not lost her connections with the rheumatology world. "My Masters research in 2010 focused around exploring the day to day lives of people with rheumatoid arthritis, and led me to participate in all sorts of occupations alongside my participants, include outdoor swimming and meditation classes. Having contact with this client group again rekindled my passion for the area and consolidated my determination to carry out meaningful research that would make a difference to the clients."
The working life of a lecturer:
After a short train ride and walk to work Ruth arrives at the university campus within a major teaching hospital and will check her emails before heading off to teach with her team. "I work more and more within a multidisciplinary team of lecturing staff including occupational therapists, physio, and radiographers to name a few." Ruth teaches two groups of eight to ten students in the morning for an hour and a half each, as well as delivering lectures. "That can mean preparing the material in advance, uploading onto the virtual learning environment prior to the lecture and then standing in front of 50 or so students explaining key theoretical concepts." After Ruth tries to grab some lunch in the cafeteria (not the easiest of tasks if the students are in) she will deliver a workshop session that can often run over a three hour period. Before heading home Ruth carries out a few office based activities such as overseeing student research or being a personal tutor. Ruth has also volunteered for the COTSS rheumatology national executive committee as the Welsh representative and journal editor, and deputy education secretary for BHPR, which can mean long days away from home due to travelling to London, although this does allow her to catch up with her brother who is based there.
Ruth’s window of opportunity: inspiration through patients for a hard-working team
Ruth has been inspired by the positive attitude of her patients who, in the face of major chronic pain and disability have remained determined not to let the conditions stop their daily lives, and this is reflected in the MDT that she works in. "One of the most rewarding aspects of my many years in rheumatology has been experiencing what can only be described as a uniquely supportive and excellent team working culture, of which I can think of many examples from developing clinical guidelines that were fully supported by medics, nurses and physios alike, to getting involved in putting on fundraising performances where the rheumatology consultants were in tights and tutus alongside the rest of the team on stage!"
Ruth is sharing her story to inspire the next generation of healthcare professionals to move in to the rewarding area of rheumatology which has led her to many exciting opportunities.
The window of opportunity is key in finding the right treatment for millions of people with rheumatic conditions.
*If you are inspired by Ruth’s story, visit the Take action section to learn about your window of opportunity to help.