The COVID-19 epidemic has brought many challenges to services over the past weeks and months however these challenges have also brought to light the willingness of occupational therapists to do what is needed to work as a team to care for those affected by COVID-19 and their resilience to these unexpected demands. These extraordinary times and experiences can also provide opportunities for change as they can challenge accepted thinking, knowledge and attitudes and create the seeds of fresh ideas.
At the beginning of May, the Elizabeth Casson Trust issued a call for proposals that asked you to consider how the Trust could invest back into individuals and the profession through a programme of support. The Trust received a great number of applications that were thoughtful and responsive to the remit of the call. A panel of six trustees reviewed the proposals and discussed the merits of each idea, including the breadth of practice areas covered and the opportunity for individuals to engage. Three proposals are being taken forward for immediate funding and a summary of each is shown below.
Once again, as a profession we can all be very proud of our readiness to ‘step up to the plate’ in difficult times. Thank you OTs!
The University of Southampton
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has placed significant pressures on the UK health and care services and brought additional demands to newly-qualified occupational therapists (NQOT) having recently completed their education. With NQOTs entering the workforce in uncertain and unprecedented times the need for support is greater than ever, particularly for those working in psychologically demanding, traumatic situations or starting their new post working remotely from home. While work-place clinical supervision is still provided, a number of our own, and colleagues’ OT students, have expressed concern in entering health services at this time. Requests from NQOTs for additional support have also been emerging to cope with the dual-demands of i) adjusting to their qualified role, and ii) adapting to an ever-changing environment, which may include lone-working.
To address this gap and offer a bespoke support network, the team propose to pilot a virtual support café for NQOTs across the UK with two peer-support sessions each month for a 12-month period run by University of Southampton staff.
The project will capitalise on existing partnerships in academia, practice and the health services to:
- Offer a safe peer-to-peer forum, to help NQOTs to share experiences, challenges and identify strategies to become resilient in their workplace.
- Evaluate, inform facilitation styles and gain feedback on the programme for Phase II. Programme adaption will be in response to new practices and learnings stated by NQOTs.
Fiona MacNeill, Fiona MacNeill Consultancy
This programme recognises the changing landscape of health and social care, the unprecedented delivery environment and a desire for more practical learning that will help free up space for leaders to think and do better. The programme invites them to take the learning and reflection from COVID-19 and use it in a positive way to support their resilience, the resilience of their colleagues and teams and ultimately the resilience of the system as the new world emerges. Critically, the programme will capture positive change, reflect on loss and define the leadership required for the emerging future. The programme poses the fundamental question ‘What do I need to let go of and what do I need to learn?’.
Using Appreciative Inquiry as the central framework, the programme will explore the successes, strengths, possibilities and opportunities of the world that is emerging. It is a conversation and inquiry approach to change and development with the intention to:
- Navigate the complexity of the wider system and the conflicting demands, using personal reflection on leadership impact and behaviour, peer support and a deep understanding of the web of influence/purpose in the wider community
- Develop and nurture relationships and energy that already exist within the organisation and their communities using intensive and intentional listening and a deep concern for the whole system
- Make it easy to engage others in positive, generative conversation about the future using appreciative inquiry, creating space to think and listen, working from a base of empathy, exceeding expectations with teams and customers
Hannah McMahon and Sarah Haynes, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a re-focussing of occupational therapy provision towards emergency care, admission prevention and rapid discharge planning with many therapists re-deployed to support these areas. This forced occupational therapists to adapt rapidly to new working practices and environments whilst simultaneously dealing with the pressure and complexity of a severe and rapidly progressing disease outbreak. This study will use quantitative and qualitative research methods to determine how occupational therapists have experienced and managed this challenge, both personally and professionally. It will also identify new professional practices and coping strategies that have arisen in order to inform future support for occupational therapists. South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust is one of few trusts in the country to have occupational therapy staff working within community, inpatient, outpatient and domiciliary services. This places us in an exceptionally strong position to gather the experiences of occupational therapists’ from across both professional practice and patient pathways.
Once the findings have been analysed, the researchers will produce a report on the three study objectives;
- How the pandemic changed the working practices of OTs
- The impact of the pandemic on the health & wellbeing of OTs
- Innovative working practices that have arisen over this period