So here we are, the newly qualified Occupational Therapists. We have had years of training, countless assignments, presentations, lectures, group work and placement experience. Why would a newly qualified Occupational Therapist need a well-being resource? Surely the point of passing our training is that we are deemed able and ready to practice as autonomous professionals?
Well… Yes and No.
A friend of mine, @HellomynameisVictoria, once described the difference between being a student OT and being a professional as “Feeling like I’ve gone from learning how to ride a bike to learning how to drive a car. The same principles are there (i.e. getting from A to B) but there’s a completely different level complexity.” Sometimes it might feel like the skill set you learnt at University is very different from the skills that you need now you’re in practice.
I think when we are completing our Occupational Therapy training we work towards each small goal, such as passing an assignment or placement. We don’t often think about what life will be like when we are actually out working. How we will do it every day. I think the secret to being able to do it comes down to two things, resilience and building knowledge and skills.
You might have had a couple of lectures on it, but building resilience and working on your own personal set of skills in your tool box through gaining knowledge is such a personal journey, it can’t be taught. I know I need to continuously work on both.
I have found working as an autonomous professional is very different from being a student. When I was a student I felt like I always had an invisible protective coat of my university tutors and peers to support, protect and build me up. It was warm, comforting and protected me if the weather ever got too bad. Having a network behind me made me feel supported and challenged me professionally, it was a large part of the reason why I felt capable. When I qualified I felt it slowly fall away. Suddenly, my coat was gone I was in a t-shirt and it was cold. When I realised this was happening I decided. I needed a new coat.
I decided to start with what I had left of my old coat, by keeping in touch with friends from my course and reaching out if I needed support, but also offering support when they needed it. I then began to make sure I got the best out of supervision by engaging with my manager and lead and really working on building good working relationships within both the OT team and MDT. I then began to work on building my knowledge tool kit. Whenever there was an opportunity to take part in relevant training or CPD opportunities, I took it.
I also took a long hard look at what my job lacked. I love my role and I’m part of a great team. However, our Occupational Therapy team is small, I knew I needed to widen my network of Occupational Therapists who work in my field (learning disabilities). I spoke to my lead about this and she pointed me in the direction of the Royal College of Occupational Therapist specialist section for people with learning disabilities, of which she was a member.
Through that group I have a role on the committee and I have started co-hosting a podcast with my old manager. It’s been a great way to make professional connections and to learn about how other services work.
Slowly as I have kept working on it. I felt like I have a pretty good protective coat again. So, in closing if I could create a resource for newly qualified OT’s it would be a coat. But it’s up to you all to make your own. So quick get going.
Written by Becky Power.
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