Everybody coming into practice as a newly qualified OT comes with experience.  It is not just the 1000 hours of placement experience and a degree certificate but it is all of the experiences over a lifetime which make us unique.  It may be perspectives and skills from previous careers, it may be bags of enthusiasm, it may be lived experience of ill health or caring for someone who is ill, it may be amazing IT skills.

I was discussing this with a friend recently.  He has always lived with his parents so many of the day-to-day domestic admin tasks are things he’s never had to deal with but he comes with a wealth of skills and experiences I shall never have!  In comparison, I am a late entrant to OT with a previous life as a project manager and therefore I have a set of skills not usually required by a B5 OT!  Throw me a risk assessment or ask me to facilitate a service review and I can hit the ground running.   However I’m new to the health care environment and my fledgling clinical skills lag way behind .

One of my big questions is – which pieces of my jigsaw are missing? Knowing which pieces of the jigsaw are present can highlight and reinforce your strengths and offer real value to your teams. Some days, being able to do a job which is well within your comfort zone really helps to banish some of the nervousness gremlins which jump out and borrow your confidence for a while.

The other thing which really helped me was having an alternative perspective from somebody working in a different setting.   One of my big issues when I was uncomfortable with a situation was knowing whether it was me or the situation which was unreasonable.

I have a running buddy who is a very experienced physio.  Our paths are unlikely to cross professionally, she has mentored many nq physios and I trust her judgement.  Whilst running I can reflect on a situation and she will advise me whether I need to actually change the situation or just change my attitude to it.

She will also help me rephrase my ideas into analogies which convey my concerns in a way which is acceptable at work.  I can’t give every NQOT  their own personal Rachel, but wouldn’t it be great if every NQOT had someone safe they could talk to?   Maybe the time is here for online or virtual peer or mentor support for OTs as they develop their skills.

What resource would most help you as a newly qualified OT? What have you had that you wish you could share with everyone and what would you have liked but didn’t have to support your first year of practice?

Written by Deborah Starkings-May

This project is funded by the Elizabeth Casson Trust. If you’d like to learn more about the project you can do so via this link and the team behind it here

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