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

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Create your Own Destiny

image: Newstead Abbey Rose Garden oct 08

In October 08 BJOT, Marilyn Pattison asks us to create our own destiny. She states that "we need to distance ourselves even more from the medical model" and that we have much more to offer than the "traditional view" of occupational therapy.
As an OT with 25 years experience working as a practitioner, a manager and now as an educator I have seen many developments and shifts in the profession - but what is happening now seems bigger and potentially more contentious then ever before. I agree with all that she says and welcome the shift in focus and delivery. In fact here at Salford we have been particularly pro-active in facilitating learning opportunities that enable our students to think outside the box and have a more creative approach to the role of the occupational therapist. For example, all of our final year students have a placement in a role-emerging and/or non-traditional area where they do not work alongside an OT on a day to day basis - but have to consider how occupational therapy may fit within the specific environment, for example working in a shelter for the homeless, a south asian women's project or working with charitable organisations such as Scope or Age concern. We have also posted previously on related issues of service provision and- the demise of a profession . that you may want to revisit.
The dilemma seems to me to be how do we prepare current and future occupational therapists to work in a changed world when we are contracted to provide graduates specifically for the traditional environments. By this I mean that students tuition fees are paid for by local consortia who specifically negotiate service level agreements with higher education establishments on how many student places will be provided for health care professions. Therefore, our students still require and indeed experience what could be classed as "traditional" occupational therapy in NHS and social care settings. Students often express anxieties about not knowing enough anatomy and physiology etc and practitioners often expect students to have deep knowledge of conditions specific to any placement.
In a world distanced from the medical model, these subjects and expectations may continue to be eroded (in such an obvious format) from curricula as we focus more and more on occupation, health and well being. Any suggestions as to how we can make the transition smooth both for our students and our practitioners - if indeed you agree with the need to change - would be most welcome.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Occupational Therapy, Social Networking and Facebook

Some time ago now I wrote a blog post detailing my initial forays into social networking sites in order to develop an online presence in preparation for teaching in the virtual world. At that time I was decidedly ambivalent about revealing myself as a person in a professional context and I continued the experiment only because almost every piece of literature I was reading about online teaching and learning was telling me that a personal presence was an essential factor in minimizing attrition and facilitating engagement in online learning.


A year on and I can’t imagine life without online networking. I use Facebook mainly, but have a presence on other sites as well and whilst I am aware of, and have experienced one or two of the challenges of mixing the personal and professional on Facebook I have developed strategies to manage these. I thought I might share a few with you here.


Privacy – Facebook has been criticized for revealing too much information about its users. No, the users reveal too much information about themselves by not understanding or implementing appropriate privacy settings. I make my profile available to friends only, categories my friends into groups and then further screen what I revel to whom. It seems to work out fine.


Refusing student friend requests – I was anxious about rejecting friend requests from undergraduate students but didn’t want to offend by rejecting them. Actually, very few of them want to be friends with me (should I be upset about that I wonder?), and if any do I just explain that once they graduate I’m more than happy but until then I prefer to take a more boundaried approach. I don’t think I’ve offended anyone yet, but I guess you never quite know.


Our online Masters students are different though. I created my account specifically for this group in order to demonstrate that although a lecturer I was also a human being (apparently it makes me more approachable). It would seem silly therefore to exclude them, even though it could be argued that some of the same boundary issues are relevant. I am now friends with several of my MSc students, and you know what? I feel I know them better as people too, and am more engaged with them so I guess it works both ways.


Being invited to be friends with a stranger – This is a difficult one. I started rejecting anyone I didn’t know (you can do this quietly, by ignoring them) but then I thought that I might be missing great opportunities. This is social networking after all. So, I’m more discerning now and I’ll add strangers from the OT worlds if we have things in common. This has resulted in some collaborative working and interesting discussions and debates, reinforcing the idea that a stranger is a friend you haven’t yet met… Maybe. Random strangers however, are still quietly ignored.


So, in summary, I have found a way of using Facebook professionally that works for me. I’ve also been fortunate enough to find old “real” friends too, but that is another story.

Monday, 13 October 2008

How do YOU engage in activity?

image: Pennington Flash at sunset Oct 2008

Fiona recently posted about a leisure activity she engaged in that made her clearly reflect on the importance of engaging in an activity - but then following through and making links to our occupational philosophy and suggests
"So if you have any free time ...I would recommend trying something completely different (it doesn't have to be a classical music concert!) and enjoying yourself...but also stopping for a moment to consider some of the observations you can make?"

Our current Level 3 students are undertaking their module "Doing, Being and Becoming" (see
Wilcock, A.A. (1999). Reflections on doing, being and becoming. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal (1999) 46, 1–11 which enables them to engage in an activity they have not previosuly engaged in ( this year it's a choice between floristry, drama, pottery or yoga). The idea is that through engagement in a leisure activity they can experience concepts of doing (engagement in the form and perfomance of the activity), develop meaning for themselves within a new activity - (personal, socio-cultural etc) and consider the impact of their engagment on their well being.
It is suprising the impact that these regular and everyday leisure activities can have on the students as they share their experiences within the set seminars and attempt to underpin these experiences with the theoretical concepts and an evidence base.
Students overall report a total immersement in the activity to the point of losing focus on other everyday concerns, a sense of achievement and pride in their involvement - whether that be through an end product or a satisfaction of having worked together in a group to complete a task and a much deeper understanding of how, as occupational therapists, they will use activity in their furture role.
As occupational therapists we are very much involved in enabling people to "Do" but how often do we consider how the doing will enable someone (ourselves or our service user) to "Be" in the moment and utimately "Become" through engagement in activity?
Your comments on this would be welcome, maybe you could share one of your own experiences of using and/or engaging with clients using leisure activity.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Wikiflash is here!

OT Wikiflash is the rather curious name given to a time, this year during OT week (commencing November 3rd 2008), when we are trying to get a large number of members of the OT community to contribute to the online public encyclopaedia that is Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is a fantastic resource that many are turning to however there are problems with the system largely due to inaccuracies of content. These inaccuracies are often due to a number of reasons including editors plagiarising information, information being out of date (and thus wrong), and poor referencing. Despite this, increasing numbers of students, healthcare professionals and service users are turning to wikipedia as a first port of call.

OT currently has a tiny section in the wikipedia world with most content being US centric and largely focused on the title of "Occupational Therapy" rather than an explanation of our core skills, values and role. We are suggesting that the OT community in the UK takes a lead in updating and improving this resource. As a starting point we have created a website where you will find more information, including a “how to” guide, and some suggestions on what and where to make your contribution. You could do a little or a lot – anything and everything will help show what we do.

As well as benefiting the OT community, your contribution can also have a significant personal benefit as you can use your edits to demonstrate aspects of your CPD for the HPC re-registration process. For more information go to the website . Whilst we are specifically looking at this activity from a UK perspective, we have been discussing this idea across our networks and we are expecting that OTs in USA and NZ will also be taking part.

We look forward to a community of wiki-flashers in OT week!!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

A Public Display ....

Week one of the new MSc Advanced Occupational Therapy online programme and things are going well. Our students have engaged in the virtual learning environment including the virtual classroom, skype, wikis and blogs and we even have a virtual cafe where we can all go to chill!!!

Whilst this cohort are embarking on this new experience we realise that the cycle never stops and we are busy considering how to reach our next potential cohort. With this in mind Sarah and I have decided to be very brave and "expose" ourselves here for the sake of the programme. As part of the induction package we were videoed talking about the programme - and now realise that a lot of the information may be just as useful to anyone considering their options for further study - and particularly when considering whether an online programme may be for you.

Hopefully you will find this short video useful. You can find further information about the programme here.