Have you ever attended training, development or started a preceptorship programme and wondered what colour uniform you were actually wearing? I have, as a Band 6 occupational therapist in an acute physical setting supervising newly qualified staff, with resources that were created by another profession.

My own experience of completing a preceptorship programme as a newly qualified occupational therapist was of a programme specific to our profession.  I felt the programme guided my learning and provided a clear structure to gathering continuing professional development (CPD) resources. 

The other key element of the programme I completed were the achievement of competencies. I found this very beneficial as it allowed me dedicated time with my supervisor to ensure that I achieved all competencies and felt confident in my professional ability. 

I think we can all agree that finishing university and starting your first day as a qualified occupational therapist is a massive scary leap of faith. I felt, as a supervisor, that I wanted to make sure the newly qualified staff I was working with had the support they needed to excel in their practice.

This meant developing a structure to support their learning with a profession specific focus to give them confidence that they were meeting the standards required of them as a registered professional.

So how did I make the change?

I contacted the learning and development team within the Trust and discussed with the staff I supervised their learning and opinions.  The learning and development team were very supportive and happy for the Trust’s nursing preceptorship program to be adapted to include therapy specific areas.

What changes were made and their impact?

In adapting the nurse specific program key elements were kept such as links to Trust values, Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities & Threats (SWOT) analysis and a review structure. The review structure was set at months 3, 6 and 9 of the programme, allowing dedicated time to show work produced so far.

I found the Royal College of Occupational Therapists Career Development Framework an excellent resource in helping to develop an OT specific program.  The adapted program had the addition of; OT specific competencies, reflection, case study and evidence templates.  All of which had the added element of meeting the Trust values and behaviours and the Health and Care Professions Council standards of proficiency for Occupational Therapy. 

I also incorporated ‘witness statements’. These were brief statements regarding the preceptee in relation to; a competency, clinical skill, professional approach, knowledge or communication skills. I felt this was good way for staff to gain feedback from other professionals and the wider multi-disciplinary team.  The final piece of work was a reflection on the first year of practice.

Outcome and feedback

My first preceptee really enjoyed completing the program and felt proud of the achievement at the end of their first year.  It was a fantastic piece of work, they felt it had given them confidence in their own abilities, reassurance that they were meeting the standards required of them and the skills to structure their ongoing CPD moving forward.

As a supervisor to newly qualified occupational therapists my message to all supervisors and supervisee’s is that preceptorship programmes can be changed and any areas that can be improved and adapted to increase development, should be considered.

I know now that all newly qualified occupational therapists completing our preceptorship program know the colour of their uniform and wear it with self-confidence and pride.

Written by Lauren Goodchild: Lauren.goodchild2@nhs.net

Community Services, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust. 

RCOT Career development Framework – https://www.rcot.co.uk/sites/default/files/CAREER_FRAMEWORK.pdf

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash