This week marks the end of my first year as an occupational therapist, and with it, the end of my first (temporary) post. I’ve enjoyed working in adult acute inpatient mental health, particularly the flexibility that the role affords. Being ward-based has allowed me to work very closely with the multidisciplinary team, constantly re-evaluating my practice in the face of changing service user and service needs. I’ve had a lot of freedom in developing my role on the ward, and have had many opportunities to build on my interests.
Working with hundreds of people with varied, “complex and intractable presentations” (Brennan, 2008, pg. 39) has taught me a lot. As I compare my current performance with that on my elective placement (also acute inpatient), I’m aware of how much my skills and confidence have grown over the past year. I remember realising early on in my post that I had completed more initial assessments in one week than I had during the entire three years of university. On a daily basis, I prioritise, develop relationships, assess, facilitate group/individual interventions, de-escalate/contain, and contribute to multidisciplinary decisions. I’ve focused on developing skills in risk management, collaborative assessment/care planning, and therapeutic use of self (including Cognitive Analytic Therapy skills). I have also begun to learn about trauma-informed practice, an area I would like to develop further.
Comparing these final months to when I first started, I realise that the roller-coaster ride of becoming an occupational therapist has smoothed out significantly. For one, work uses far less energy than it did at the start (which is a relief!). Now that I’m moving to a new clinical specialty – eating disorders – I feel like I’ve re-joined the queue for the roller-coaster. I have a short period of rest before choosing to get back on the ride. While I anticipate that the roller-coaster will pick up speed again and take me on dizzying new loops, I feel better prepared this time. I have some idea of what to expect, and have more experience to draw on. And there’s no turning back now!