In Conversation With...Marilyn Hodges

We know there are lots of very interesting people in our Trust, whether through your work, interests or your hobbies outside work. We want to get to know you and share your story.

Monday (14 October) was the national Allied Health Professions (AHPs) Day, and our celebrations are running all week! So we spoke to one of our many AHPs, Marilyn Hodges, who also recently completed a Darzi Fellowship in clinical leadership. Marilyn is passionate about all health professionals working together to find the best solutions for our patients.

Age: 37
Lives: In Newham with husband Ian, 48, and son Marcel, four.
And:  Marilyn dreamed of being a doctor as a child – then almost ended up having a career in journalism!

Can you tell us more about your role at our Trust?

I joined in 2010 as an occupational therapist (OT) in our stroke team. I love stroke rehab and I’ve worked with patients at every stage. Some of the best months of my career were when I worked in our Early Supported Discharge team, providing stroke therapy to patients at home. It makes so much sense that the best place for rehab to take place is in a patient’s own home. 

My colleagues know me as the only OT who likes to work with feet! It’s essential to get the hands and feet in contact with surfaces to help our patients’ recovery.

I applied for my Darzi Fellowship last year. Fellowships give clinicians experience of leading change projects, and mine was to further develop a career map for AHPs, to provide a vision for career development. The map is the result of lots of collaborative work with AHPs across various professions.

It was an amazing year, very much out of my comfort zone and sometimes quite challenging as it included going back to university to do a bespoke post-graduate qualification. 

Before, I would only have looked at jobs with therapist in the title, however, it’s taught me that AHPs have so many transferable skills which can add value to many roles. I don’t put myself in one box anymore! My fellowship finished in September and I’ve continued working with our Corporate Nursing team on various workforce development projects.

We hear you had an interesting route into becoming an AHP….

As a child, I was always set on becoming a children’s doctor. However, at 16 I got involved in journalism at school in South Africa (where I grew up), and was named as one of the top 20 school journalists in the country.

As part of that, I was flown (my first time on a plane!) to the University of Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, to spend a week at their school of journalism. It was a privilege and really skewed my vision of what I wanted to do.

I started an undergraduate course in politics, philosophy and economics, and planned to do a post-graduate course in journalism. However, I quickly realised it wasn’t for me. I left after a year, however, I’d built up study debt which I had to pay back, so I moved to the UK to work for two years.

I lived with my brother and his wife in Ilford and did a range of jobs, sometimes two at the same time, I was a barmaid, cleaner, live-in carer, and I also worked in a call centre and as an office administrator. 

It was during this time that I realised I wanted to work in healthcare. I didn’t want to spend years studying to be a paediatric doctor so I looked into other options – I liked occupational therapy because of the holistic focus on people. 

So I went home to South Africa to train as a paediatric occupational therapist (OT).

I met my husband while I was working in the UK and we maintained a long distance relationship during the four years I was studying. We got married in the winelands in Stellenbosch during my final year.

I moved to the UK once I finished my degree. My first OT role was at St George’s Hospital in Hornchurch, and I worked at King George Hospital as a locum too. Having lived in Ilford on my first visit to the UK, and getting my first job in Hornchurch, I feel that all roads led to BHRUT!

We’ve got lots planned for our AHP Week, can you tell us more about it?

We want to take the opportunity to celebrate our AHPs and recognise the really important contribution they make.

We’ll be launching our AHP network, which is run by AHPs, for AHPs, and will start looking for the three co-chairs to lead it.

The focus of our network is on inspiring the future AHP workforce; sharing learning, raising the profile and collaborating more. There are eight different groups of AHPs in our Trust so it’s important we cross divisional and specialism boundaries and work together.

Communications has organised a Breakfast with the Boss for AHPs with our Chief Nurse, Kathryn at Queen’s Hospital, and Aman Davegun, our first practice development facilitator for therapies, is hosting and afternoon tea at King George Hospital. And there will be an AHP breakfast at the end of the week. 

There is a national focus on the AHP workforce and what it can bring to healthcare as it’s a really diverse profession. It’s so important we work together in the changing face of healthcare as solutions from the past don’t work anymore.

AHPs work across patient pathways so are well placed to look at how we can do things differently.

What do you like to get up to when you’re not at work?

Before I was a mum I was very active and would use my leave to go mountain biking or skiing, often returning with cut up elbows which my colleagues would patch up.

I’m a bit safer now though we still love skiing and have taken Marcel four times.

I also like cooking – I’ve seen every series of Masterchef Australia, it’s better than any of the others. And I like seeing friends.

All my family are in South Africa, which is hard. My mum is coming to stay for seven weeks soon which is really exciting.

I’m quite creative too and enjoyed my final project of my Darzi Fellowship – we had to make a poster to symbolise our experiences on the course – I made a tower with me abseiling down it.

And our favourite question of In Conversation With…do you have any pets?

Not now, however, I grew up on a farm in rural South Africa and we had lots of animals – lambs, goats, rabbits, horses and chickens!

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