10 Reflections & tips on being an OT

I have been astonishingly shocking at writing a blog. It isn’t because of lack of motivation, but more because I simply get in my own way and find barriers that, although small, are enough to mean an abrupt stop. For those of you who know me, you understand I spin many plates, wear many hats and am interested in everything. This, in part, is another barrier to my just sitting down and getting on with it.

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This theme makes me surprisingly joyous. There isn’t a ‘box’ for Occupational Therapy. It is one of the reasons why I am always learning, always reflecting, always challenging myself. When I graduated over 20 years ago, I had this perception of what OT should be, not really understanding how I would be and having more than a little fear at what I could be, as I don’t always feel like I fit into a clearly defined box. The purpose of OT is to help you (and me) get the most out of life. This is vast. Where should we start or stop dreaming when faced with physical or cognitive challenges?

So here are my 10 reflections about being an Occupational Therapist – after 20 years I am still learning about who I am and absolutely love being an Occupational Therapist:

  1. If you are passionate about an area, subject, activity – let that be your guide. Even if you are passionate about everything.

  2. Never stop challenging yourself – this is the reason why I continue to grow as an Occupational Therapist and allow my clients and their families to teach me to challenge my own perspectives.

  3. Recognise that you will become a specialist, but that does not mean that your education is complete. Ever.

  4. Allow yourself to play. Occupational Therapy includes the domain of leisure – we should ensure that we set time aside and include play for our clients and ourselves. This is how we get the most out of life.

  5. Recognise that you do things differently and that is wonderful. Two therapists working in the same field, with the same knowledge base and with the same cohort will always do things differently because of what you, personally, bring to that equation. I recently was reminded on an abundance mindset in relation to business and was also reminded to recognise that I bring something to the table that others do not. Because of me and all the abilities, interests, ups and downs and experiences I have had.

  6. Our role is to empower and build confidence so we can leave our clients better-off than when they first met us. For me this includes educating and encouraging and reminding them that they’ve got this. We can provide the tools, but the process always draws out their motivations and decisions because it is their life. We can establish a foundation to dream again and provide a mirror to show the little things along the way that help them run towards everything life can offer.

  7. Allow and remind yourself to practice self-care. I am notoriously bad at taking time-out, but I then am reminded that how can we talk the talk, when we don’t walk the walk. I will always be a self-carer in practice and am getting much better at recognising limits. I am having to learn this again during the COVID-19 pandemic because my usual routines aren’t possible, but I am applying my knowledge and finding my equilibrium, recognising that different may be sad, but that there are still positives I can recognise if I allow myself to.

  8. Never forget that rehabilitation or engaging with a healthcare provider can be scary for our clients. Some may have had a few negative experiences before they meet us. Trust can take time so always listen and collaborate with your client. And our intervention is never with only one person when there is family, other health professionals and caregivers involved. It takes a village, so we can help to create the right village.

  9. Actively chase education in the interests of providing the best knowledge and competence for the people your serve. We will never know everything, but we must certainly be curious to ensure we provide the best evidence-based practice, whilst also considering how we can provide practice-based evidence.

  10. Be you. By accepting this, you will belong. You will find your tribe where ‘you’ is the perfect addition. This may take some time, but always be true to ‘you’.

Here’s to another fabulous year ahead for Occupational Therapists (students, graduates and those of us with more than a good number of years behind us!) 😊 It is particularly exciting to see practice developments in the realm of Occupational Therapy – our work is never boring, and it is a vocation where we, too, can get the most out of life.

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