Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely our own and not necessarily those of our employer or any other occupational therapist.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Time for something different

I recently attended the COT managers and Educators conference, where one of the keynote sessions was the presentation of the almost completed BA/COT strategic plan. Once again the issue of promoting the profession and seeking to secure the understanding of others is a key feature of the plan, affording an implicit acknowledgement that “others” don’t really know what we do, and that it is our responsibility to educate them.

This is a recurring theme in my almost 20 year career. From beginning my training right up to present time the issue of “what do occupational therapists do?” has been the elephant in the room of many a multi-professional team meeting or management meeting or classroom. Clearly, as a profession (I know many individual OT’s who are quite clear about their role), this question remains current despite all our efforts to date.

So I’m thinking a different approach is needed. After all as someone once said “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. I suggest we should stop focusing on being misunderstood, to stop trying to explain and justify our role, and to stop taking responsibility for educating our colleagues. I’m thinking we should just “do” occupational therapy, confidently and with conviction, and let the results speak for themselves.

And perhaps people are less interested in what we do, or how we do it than in the outcomes we can deliver. According to Karen Middleton (AHP Lead), this is most definitely the case. She reported that commissioners of NHS and Social are services are not interested in how results are achieved, just the results themselves. So maybe our efforts should be directed towards identifying methods for providing information that really is critical, rather than continuing to seek understanding of our role. Or maybe, just maybe, we should break free from the constraints of statutory services and spread our wings?

And just to finish, in case I have left an unanswered question; I completely believe that we must continue to seek the understanding of our clients, as without it informed consent to treatment is negated.


Kirsty said...

I couldn't agree more with Sarah when she says that surely we should 'do' occupational therapy and let the results speak for themselves. I've had the experience of being part of a newly created MDT and being asked, like the other professionals,to talk to the team about what we thought our profession could bring to the team. Overall this exercise did nothing for team morale or for raising the profile of OT as it's easy to say what we 'could' do but another to actually deliver it, so there were people in the room with that 'yeah, yeah, heard it all before' expression on their faces.

What, without a doubt, increased our profile within the team was becoming part of the on-call team and going on joint assessments with other members of the team, predominently nurses. Having visited a client at home for the first time both the nurse and the OT could discuss their thoughts on the visit in the car on the way back to the office, they could also jointly decide what would be the best course of action to take for the client. This alone helped the team to understand what OT's do as they saw us doing it and saw the results for themselves.

It was also during my time working within this MDT that I came to accept that I could work with a client for several months, sometimes years, and not to be disappointed when they were asked in their clincial review what they felt had helped them to improve and their reply was "oh Kirsty the nurse has helped me enormously"!

Does it matter that this client thinks that I'm a nurse or is it far more important that they recognise that someone has made a difference to their lives and helped them to function despite their long-term illness. That is ample reward for me, I know that it was me who helped facilitate a level of occupational performance, it's irrelevant that it is attributed to a 'nurse'.

Georgina Leadbeater said...

I am so please to see Sarah's comments. As a new student to OT I am deeply concerned that I am entering a profession that seems to be constantly trying to explain itself. It has lead me many times to question if I am doing the right thing and what I might expect from other HCPs when I do qualify?

Personally feel that this constant justification and explaination in itself lowers our status and perpetuates a lack of acceptance and understanding from others.

Of course we must be accountable for clinical practice and justify our treatments and interventions, and most certainly we need to explain and receive the consent of our clients.

I agree - lets be measured and understood by our excellent results!!