OTs entering practice for the first time can experience many emotions. Helping patients achieve their goals, meeting new colleagues, learning and working in a new environment and being paid as a professional can be both rewarding and exciting. On the reverse, these circumstances can also bring feelings of unease and concern. They can be challenging and exhausting.

Graduating and working in a healthcare setting during COVID-19 can only add to these anxiety-provoking situations. Being alive during a global pandemic is daunting full stop. Will there be another lockdown? When did I last wash my hands? Have I got my mask? When I am next in the shop, will there be enough toilet roll?

Newly qualified OTs are entering practice in uncertain and unprecedented times and their needs for support are greater than ever. Graduates can work in psychologically demanding, traumatic situations and many are starting new posts working remotely, interacting with service users and colleagues they may not have met.

Although employment-based professional supervision is still provided, external wellbeing-based support would be beneficial for many newly qualified OTs working at this time. Finite healthcare resources are likely to be prioritised for the nationwide response to COVID-19 and resultingly there is likely to be less time and scope to address the concerns of graduating OTs.

To address this need, The Elizabeth Casson Trust has awarded a sum of money to The University of Southampton to create a virtual support network for the 1,120 newly qualified OTs across the UK. On two dates each month, OTs can attend virtual support meetings hosted over Microsoft Teams with up to seven other OTs.

These meetings will be facilitated by a member of staff from the Occupational Therapy teaching team at the University of Southampton. Sessions can be booked onto through Eventbrite once an OT has completed the Microsoft Form accessible through our website.

These sessions are free and are an opportunity for those attending to discuss anything that they would like. Do they feel happy and well? Do they feel they have a good work-life balance and are able to manage stress? Are they enjoying their role? Do they have any supportive resources for each other or tips on managing self-care? We would like this to be a place where there is honest and supportive listening and discussion where every newly qualified OT is welcome. The first sessions will be hosted in November 2020.

To find out more please visit our website: www.ottimeout.com

Written by Laura Rossiter from the OT Time Out team.