Rebekah Smalley

Senior therapy assistant

Royal Bolton Hospital

Rebekah Smalley is a senior therapy assistant at Royal Bolton Hospital and is currently completing a degree at University of Salford to become an occupational therapist.


I didn’t go the typical route where you need qualifications [for a degree], I went via the experience of knowing the knowledge of an OT and what they do.

Rebekah Smalley's story

Rebekah started her career journey in admin on reception desks, performing clerical duties for occupational therapists, physiotherapists, orthopaedics, rheumatology and more. Rebekah was in this role for seven years before applying and joining a waiting list for her current role as a senior therapy assistant. Rebekah now works across 14 medical and complex care wards at Royal Bolton Hospital and supports both physiotherapists and occupational therapists in treating and discharging patients.

Rebekah initially started as a Band 2 therapy assistant before being promoted to Band 3 senior therapy assistant after one year in the role.

As a senior therapy assistant, Rebekah is always kept on her toes and no day is ever the same, with different patients and different challenges to manage in a fast-paced and ever-evolving work environment. For Rebekah, the biggest highlight is working with patients and seeing their improvement from not being able to not carry out their normal day-to-day activities to getting back to what they enjoy doing and returning home.

Next steps

Back in September 2022, Rebekah applied to complete a 3-year full-time university degree at University of Salford, funded by student loans, to train to become an occupational therapist.

Rebekah was inspired to complete an occupational therapy degree after working with an AHP workforce group that was created to promote career progression. Rebekah worked with this group once a week for 6-8 weeks and used this opportunity to gain as much information as possible from other support workers. As a result of this work, Rebekah knew she wanted to do more and train to become an occupational therapist.

Rebekah is studying her degree alongside her current role as a senior therapy support worker, which she does for 15 hours per week. On completion of her degree, Rebekah hopes to become a fully qualified occupational therapist.

Rebekah’s Top Tips

  1. Jump in feet first – and run with it. You have the support of the qualified professionals in your team.
  2. Be open – take in and learn everything that you can. Make the most of seeing and treating a variety of patients with different conditions, and every day and situation is different.