Is supervision really the golden key to unlocking the door to a more confident and reassured newly qualified occupational therapist? Is it the foundation to an effective first year of practice? After all, it is highlighted in the Standards of Proficiency for Occupational Therapists that occupational therapist should/must “understand the importance of participation in training, supervision and mentoring” (Health and Care Professions Council, 2015).

Supervision, for me, really was that golden key which opened the doors to becoming a confident occupational therapist and provided me with reassurance around my clinical skills and decision making. Supervision felt like the foundation and pillars keeping me upright, like the bricks to a house.

After I had graduated from university, like many other graduates, I was lucky to be offered my first band 5 rotational post. This all happened very fast, one minute I’m sat in a lecture theatre worrying about assignment deadlines and then next I’m walking the corridors of a busy acute hospital rushing to see my next patient.

It was very much like being in the hurricane from the Wizard of Oz, and suddenly that is it I’m qualified. I lacked confidence and constantly doubted myself and my decisions making.

Like many newly qualified occupational therapists, my rotation began in a speciality I had not had a placement in during university. I really struggled with this to begin with, as I did not know the conditions, or procedure within this area. As a result, my confidence was always low to start with and I would always second guess myself.  As a newly qualified, I felt I was exposed to more ‘complex’ situations, as I had not seen a certain situation prior. So, I would panic and worry a lot as in my mind everything seemed like a ‘complex’ situation.

So how did I use supervision? Well, I used it as a tool to my advantage, I asked my mentor if we could meet as regularly as possible. I would ensure I came with set questions, and themes as this allowed me to maximise my allocated time.  Supervision allowed me to talk through my caseload and ask, as a band 6, what my mentor would do differently. It allowed me to talk through my plan which offered me great reassurance. For me, I enjoyed a 1 to 1 supervision as I was able to have my mentor’s full attention, but I also used peer supervision and would ask my peers questions in the office. As a team this provided a range of perspectives.

At the beginning I did not know what to expect from supervision. At first, I would always rush to find things to bring to the session. However, as time went on it became more fluent and I would gradually want to talk about different things. I also think over time supervision with your mentor changes, it changes from a formal conversation to a relaxed atmosphere where the conversation flows with ease.

So, was supervision key? For me yes. Was supervision the foundation to an effective first year of practice? Definitely. As without supervision I would not be as confident as I am now. And yes, I continue to use supervision to my advantage on my new rotation.

Below are just a handful of aspects that supervision can assist with:

For more information on what supervision is please refer to Supervision Guidance for occupational therapists and their managers (2015). Accessible through:

For occupational therapist who do not have a supervisor or are looking to offer supervisor please visit the consultancy service through the Royal College of Occupational Therapists:

Written by Paul Wilkinson

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