Transitioning from being a student to a qualified occupational therapist is a demanding time at the start of your professional career and can sometimes be quite challenging: received knowledge crashes headlong into a barrage of real-world exceptions. The identity and lifestyle of a student ceases as the world of work replaces it.
Sound familiar to you now or perhaps it rekindles past memories?
In March 2020 The Elizabeth Casson Trust commissioned an exciting project with Dr Lynne Goodacre, an occupational therapist, researcher and personal coach and Rob Young, an artist and writer who helps NHS Leaders to communicate. The purpose of the project, called Year 1: Thriving not Surviving, was to create resources to support the wellbeing of newly qualified occupational therapists in their first year of practice.
Ten first year occupational therapists answered a call to work with Lynne and Rob. Over the course of six months they engaged with the wider occupational therapy community to co-produce a series of freely available self-coaching resources. Their commitment, energy and time has ensured that the resources are embedded in the real-life experiences of this community.
If you are in your first year of practice, download and take a look at the guides. They are not meant to be worked through in one go but are designed to help you pause, reflect and work on aspects of your life which may be challenging. Dip into whichever best meets your needs and, as the group themselves said, ‘I need to remember to OT myself’.
The Trust offers our sincerest thanks to this group for being so open and willing to share their experiences and feelings through this first year of professional life: Andrew Bates, Stephanie Exley, Joanna Hunt, Bethany Morgan-Davis, Deborah May, Ryan McClure, Rebecca Power, Siobhan Scanlon, Paul Wilkinson, Katy Williams.
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. Equally, these circumstances can also bring feelings of unease and concern, in fact 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 enough: When did I last wash my hands? Have I got my mask? Will there be enough toilet paper when I next go shopping…!
Newly qualified OTs are entering practice in uncertain and challenging 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 NQOTs. To address this need, The Elizabeth Casson Trust has awarded funds to The University of Southampton to create a virtual support network open to NQOTs 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 the OTTimeOut 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.
To find out more please visit our website: www.ottimeout.com
Written by Laura Rossiter from the OT Time Out team.