Jessica Reardon – Journey into Occupational Therapy

Jessica Reardon is a Wiradjuri woman, a descendent of Diana Mudgee and an occupational therapist (OT) who finished her studies in 2014, graduating from Sydney University in March, 2015. Born in North Sydney, Jessica is now a member of the Gandangara local Aboriginal land council.

So why did Jess choose Occupational Therapy? Jess explains…

“The fact my eldest brother has an intellectual disability motivated me to work in the health industry,” said Jessica. “Occupational Therapy allows me to continue to help people and work in the field of paediatrics, which I have always wanted to do.”

Jessica did not decide to do OT until term 4 of her final year at school. It took her a long time to decide but once she found out about Occupational Therapy, she remembers saying ‘That is it! That is what I want to do.’

“I found it extremely hard to study at school as I was not academic and was told by many people that I would never be able to study at university, as it was too hard,” said Jessica. “Through the Indigenous program and the support of my family I was able to overcome this and enrolled into University as an Indigenous student. I went straight into occupational therapy at Sydney University once I left school. I never thought I would be able to say to people that I am now a Sydney University Graduate.”

“In my first two years of Uni, I found it hard to find my feet and how to actually study,” said Jessica. “I struggled with making friends as I thought I was not at the same academic level as the peers in my year. I also found the support different, especially coming straight out of high school.  I was able to overcome this through the support of the Indigenous unit, I made some great life long friends from the unit who studied health courses which. This helped with my confidence and helped me to make more friends in my own course.”

The Indigenous unit helped Jessica immensely with her study. They provided her with tutoring support throughout her entire degree.

“My support staff were always encouraging and motivating,” said Jessica. “If it was not for the Indigenous unit at Cumberland campus (YG) I may have withdrawn from the course.”

“My friends and family are extremely proud of me and where I am today,” said Jessica. “They believe I have great empathy and compassion and will make an excellent Occupational Therapist. My friends, family and the YG community have been unbelievably supportive of me studying Occupational Therapy and never doubted me for minute.”

“I love being able to work in different environments and help people,” said Jessica. “You meet so many wonderful people in the health field, hear amazing stories, and see incredible things, which is what makes the profession extremely rewarding. I enjoy watching people in their journey to recovery.”

To those who are looking into a career in OT, Jess has the following words, “It may not be for everybody but if you have a passion for working with others and helping, then you should at least try. Do not let other people or your school marks put you down. There is always support to help you achieve your goal. It is extremely rewarding!”

Within 5 years Jess hopes to be working within Indigenous communities, educating and working with Indigenous mothers and their newborn babies. She would like to be working in the paediatric field, which is where her passion is. Jess is currently working at Autism Australia.