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Case study: Rachel – Support worker to health professional

Rachel is a doctor with a history of working in disability support. Looking back, she feels that disability support work gave her skills and knowledge that remain relevant to this day.

Rachel is a doctor with a history of disability support work. Looking back, she feels that disability support work gave her skills and knowledge that remain relevant to this day.

For seven years, working in the disability sector was a big part of Rachel’s life while she studied to become a doctor. She now works as a junior doctor in a Melbourne hospital and still enjoys occasional weekend shifts as a disability support worker.

Rachel’s passion for working with people with disability started much earlier.

“I had wanted to work in the disability sector from a very young age. My older brother Mark has cerebral palsy, intellectual disability and epilepsy, and we’ve always been very close.

“We had support workers in our house for as long as I can remember – helping him out of bed and getting him off to school, bringing him home at the end of the day and getting him ready for bed. Seeing the positive difference they made to my brother and my family was very inspiring.” Rachel says.

When she turned 19, Rachel began doing six-hour day shifts at weekends supporting young adults to go out into the community.

“A big part of disability support work is the social, community inclusion side and encouraging people with disability to become comfortable in busy social spaces. It can be challenging but it’s also a lot of fun.” 

When Rachel started university, she wanted to support herself financially and disability support work offered her the flexibility to fit work around her study commitments.

She explains that disability support work was also an opportunity to learn leadership skills and step outside of her comfort zone while escaping the stress of daily life and study.

Rachel sees her experience supporting people with disability as highly relevant to her current role.

“As a disability support worker, I worked with occupational therapy students who really thrived from their experience. Supporting people with disability gave them important skills like communicating with people with different abilities, which is a huge part of occupational therapy, physiotherapy and nursing.

“Now as a health professional I feel better prepared to support people with different requirements and preferences. This is hugely valuable for anyone and is relevant to so many other professions,” she says.

Supporting people with disability is something especially close to Rachel’s heart and she thinks it’s a career that would suit people from many different backgrounds.

“Someone wanting to build a long-term career in disability support has a lot of options. They could work supporting people in residential care, or supporting people to participate in centre-based activity programs, or they might prefer supporting people out in the community. Beyond that they could pursue a management or a health professional role.

“With a wide range of roles for people with different skills and goals, and ongoing training and professional development, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to build a fulfilling, rewarding career.”

Rachel’s story is one example from the many organisations and individuals dedicated to supporting people with disability in Victoria. Organisations may offer services and work opportunities that differ from those described here.