Service Director, Occupational Therapist
Sara Noel and Natalie Gerrard
My Colleague, Sara and I, have similar stories to share of our transition from Occupational Therapy (OT) student to practitioner. We both had previous experience of working as therapy assistants, this was in a variety of physical health settings including acute, intermediate care and rehab, and community working.
Working alongside OT’s gave us a basic understanding of the OT role, experience working in a team, working with clients and carers, knowledge of standard equipment and assistive technology and a range of health conditions.
Sara and I first met when we were in the same occupational therapy cohort at Huddersfield university from 2018 – 2021; we gained further knowledge with the content of the course curriculum, and experience when on our placements.
The placements covered both physical and mental health services which helped us to develop our knowledge and understanding of legislation and different clients, conditions, and potential impacts on occupational performance.
These placements also enabled us to embed theory into practice. However, some of these placements left us realising how much we still had to learn! According to The Conscious Competence Learning Model, we were in the conscious incompetence stage. Being able to move into the next stage of conscious competence comes with practice, experience and continued professional development.
In the February, before finishing the undergraduate course, we both interviewed for the council’s Social Care Occupational Therapy (SCOT) role, and we successfully gained positions within the SCOT team.
We started working for the council as Community and Support Officers (CASO’s) in June, whilst waiting for our HCPC registrations.
I think we both felt comforted that we were going into this together and working as CASO’s gave us the opportunity to settle in, meet the team, learn about the SCOT role, use new software programmes, and become familiar with policies and procedures, and re-adjust to full time working again!
We were eased into independently managing cases with support and assessing for basic level equipment/adaptions. We received regular formal and informal supervision and attended team meetings and joint visits. These opportunities reassured us and increased our knowledge and awareness of the SCOT role.
Placements covered both physical and mental health services which helped us to develop our knowledge and understanding of legislation and different clients, conditions, and potential impacts on occupational performance
The SCOT role differs from the health-based roles we have been used to. There are a range of factors to consider in social care, and we have the scope within the SCOT role to support clients’ additional issue: such as debts, care needs, contacting GP’s, advocating, and signposting, as well as providing assistive technology and reablement interventions. This had been a steep but satisfying learning curve.
To support our learning and practice, we must undertake mandatory training, but we are also encouraged to attend inhouse and external training sessions to increase our knowledge and awareness.
We have attended The OT Show in Birmingham, and OT events across Leeds and well as various online webinars. At times, we have fed back from these training sessions and produced useful resources for other team members to access.
Our HCPC registrations were completed at the end of August 2021; our contracts were altered to reflect that. Now, as newly qualified OT’s we had the chance to undertake a preceptorship, something that is not offered at every service/organisation.
The preceptorship involves more in-depth supervision at 3,6, 9 and 12 months. We have been completing reflections, learning logs, recognising current abilities/duties, setting goals, and forming action plans; this is a useful tool for ensuring our continued professional development.
We are undertaking our Practice Educator training, so we can confidently and competently support students with their placements on their OT journeys
As registered OT’s we are managing our own diaries, taking on more complex cases and assessing for more specialist equipment and adaptations.
Due to being part of a small team we are getting opportunities and experiences we may not have had elsewhere, for example, taking on the Duty role within the Team, chairing and taking minutes at peer supervisions, and supporting new starters within the team and SCOT inductions to other professionals’ and council staff members. This has enhanced out confidence and made us feel valued within the team.
As the SCOT team is relatively new (first established in November 2020), we are also supporting the development of the team. A main area Sara and I have contributed has been through the development of Independent Mobility Assessment/blue badge assessing.
We have been meeting with the council’s Disabled Travel team and getting feedback as well as sharing ideas. We have also visited with another local authority’s blue badge department for advice which we have been able to input into our service.
We will continue to take a lead on the development of the blue badge role, support our peers and new starters, but now we are also undertaking our Practice Educator training, so we can confidently and competently support students with their placements on their OT journeys.
And (nearly) all this working from home!
Want to learn more about the role of OT's in Local Authority? Take a look at the inspirational stories below, demonstrating the value of these roles and the vast variety of career options available
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