It’s been over six months since I wrote the last blog post about my transition from student to newly qualified occupational therapist. As I questioned whether I had enough to say to warrant another post, a realisation hit me:
I no longer feel “newly qualified”.
Of course, I still have a lot to learn, but university feels like a distant memory. I definitely feel like a “Real OT” now.
Someone commented on my original post, Becoming a “Real OT” – The Roller-Coaster Ride, saying that
… Every time there’s a new stretch, we’re back on the roller coaster again… fasten your belts and hold tight, but most of all, enjoy the ride… – Cathy
She was right. Working in a specialist eating disorders service has brought many steep learning curves, and I have often felt very incompetent, overwhelmed by my development needs. But what’s reassuring is that the roller-coaster ride seems to have smoothed out more quickly this time.
I’ve wondered what changed, to make me feel like a “Real OT”. And the simple answer is probably “experience”. The more I encounter similar situations, the better I’m able to anticipate issues that might crop up and prepare for them. As a result, I feel more proactive and resilient. The more experience I gain, the more my skills and confidence develop too.
Revisiting Bassett and Lloyd’s (2001) and Ashby et al.’s (2013) articles, I’m aware of two things that have been particularly helpful in coping with the highs and lows of the roller-coaster ride:
- Recognising stress – perhaps part of what has made the ride feel more manageable has been an improvement in my ability to recognise and manage my own stress. My favourite strategies have probably been relaxing in the hydropool/sauna at the gym, becoming absorbed in exploring my local area (rather than holding on to stress outside of work), and using the support available to me, both at work and in my personal life. Fortunately, my team are very aware of the stressful nature of the job (each shift, we’re asked to rate our stress levels using a traffic light system), and I have regular supervision with an occupational therapist, alongside team supervision and a staff support group.
- Using occupation-focused models and terminology – my role was initially very generic, and I’ve noticed a significant difference as my practice has become increasingly occupation-focused. Feeling like an authentic occupational therapist with a unique contribution has increased my confidence and job satisfaction.
Now I’m enjoying the ride, and I can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend!
Ashby, S.E., Ryan, S., Gray, M. and James, C. (2013) ‘Factors that influence the professional resilience of occupational therapists in mental health practice’, Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 60, pp. 110-119, DOI: 10.1111/1440-1630.12012 (Accessed: 9th March 2014)
Bassett, H. and Lloyd, C. (2001) ‘Occupational Therapy in Mental Health: Managing Stress and Burnout’, British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64(8), pp. 406-411 (Accessed: 4th January 2012)
- Becoming a ‘Real OT’: the Roller-Coaster Ride (March 2013)
- The Roller-Coaster Continues: from Acute to Eating Disorders (September 2013)
- The 18-Month Roller-Coaster Ride: An Update (April 2014)