Several weeks ago Rob Young and I put out a call for Occupational Therapists in their first year of practice who would like to work with us on a project funded by the Elizabeth Casson Trust, Year 1: Thriving Not Surviving. Our aim is to develop a self-coaching resource which, will be available freely, to support the wellbeing of newly qualified therapists as they transition from student to practitioner. 

We are absolutely delighted and really excited to welcome the following people to the team. Keep a look out over the coming weeks for ways in which you can get involved in the project.

We are really keen to hear about other people’s experiences of their first year of clinical practice and will be popping up in all kinds of places to gather your views.

A quick heads up – we are hosting an OTalk Twitter chat on the topic from 8-9pm Tuesday 19th May. So, mark that date in your diary.

But for the moment (drum roll…..) welcome to Team Yr One!

Andrew Bates

My name is Andrew, I’m 26, from the North East of England, and live and work in London. I studied at London South Bank University and qualified in Summer 2019. I am currently a Children and Young People’s Occupational Therapist for Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust and cover a schools pathway, seeing children and young people with a range of special educational needs and disabilities. 

I am thoroughly enjoying my first year as a newly qualified therapist, but nothing prepared me for the huge jump from student to professional. I left university armed with a wealth of theoretical knowledge, but it was then up to me to navigate the systems and the processes of this daunting world we call “work”. I’m extremely excited to be part of this project, to help develop a friendly and accessible resource to ease this transition for new graduates in the future.”

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would be:

“You may feel like you’re equipped to change the world, but you are still in a period of absorbing information and learning from others. Don’t be shy and remember to ask questions. However, you may not know everything, but you definitely know a lot, and you should utilise that knowledge.

Stephanie Exley

Hello! I’m Steph and I have been working for just under a year now. I have spent the last year on a physical rotation in hospital, learning the ins and outs of our role in acute settings. When I’m not at work, I’m cooking, eating or playing rugby. To be honest, my experience of clinical work has been a complete mixture – both good and bad, which is why I am excited to be a part of this new project! I wish there had been something like this coaching guide available when I first started to help me get the most out of my first year. At times, when work is a tad chaotic, you can feel like you don’t have time to think and reflect – this is the perfect opportunity for just that.

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would be:

Hold on to the drive and passion to learn that is embedded in you during your training. Irrespective of the barriers and service limits you come up against in your new line of work, believe that your learning will create good change for all people you come into contact with.

Joanne Hunter

My name is Jo, I am 33 and from Sheffield. I qualified in 2019 and have worked for Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist. I love paediatrics and also volunteer at a local Children’s Hospice. Prior to training, I worked with young people with complex needs as a wilderness skills tutor. I also subsequently co-founded and directed a charity focused on working therapeutically with a range of complex physical and mental health needs – these experiences served to further reinforce the power of meaningful participation to promote health and wellbeing.

I now take great pride in my role working for the NHS, striving to offer equality in access to high quality care. I am very excited about participating in this project and am really looking forward to learning and sharing with others, and hopefully better support the provision and upkeep of excellent patient care!

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would it be:

From theory to practice, it can feel overwhelming trying to keep up. The truth is, it’s never, ever gonna be enough as one individual. We are a tiny cog, (each as important as the other) in one hell of a machine. So, relax those shoulders, smile and feel the pride of contributing to something greater than its sum of its parts. 

Bethany Morgan-Davis

Hello! My name is Beth, and I’m currently working for North London Forensic Service, working on a low secure Learning Disability and Mental Health ward. Before pursuing my OT career I did a degree in Fine Art, which I loved, but always knew I had an interest in mental health. After a year out working and volunteering, I did some work experience with various OTs and knew it was the job for me! I moved from up north to Essex to complete my masters before finding my job in London. Starting a new career is always daunting, adjusting to a new job can cause our exciting ideas to be side-lined as our focus is taken up negotiating new challenges, so it would be great to develop a resource that enables people to fulfil their potential as a new professional rather than just trying to survive as one!

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would be:

Believe in yourself and your ability, don’t compare yourself to others and enjoy the journey! There is no need to put pressure on yourself and unrealistic expectations. When you start practice it’s an opportunity for you to explore, to grow into you professional role, learn from others and have fun!

Ryan McClure

My name is Ryan, I graduated from Coventry University last year and started work in inpatient mental health in November. Mental health really interested me because of the variety in diagnoses and treatment needs of the caseload. This is a great challenge and is one that is taking time to fully adjust to. I believe that involvement in this project will help the adjustment process while being a good opportunity to support other Occupational Therapists also going through this process in future.

When I first started work I experienced occupational disruption through fatigue and getting used to the change in routine. However, now I find I make more use the time I do have by running more, watching/playing football, watching films, playing video games and going on nights out. All that’s left to do from pre-work is swimming!

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would it be:

“It’s going to be tough and there will be times you feel lost and maybe don’t know what you are doing but the important thing is to work hard and to make the most of the support available to you, your confidence will improve with time”

Rebecca Power

Hello! I’m Becky and I currently live in Greater London and work in East Surrey. I am a recent graduate from London Southbank University. Whilst studying, in my second year I was the student rep for Occupational therapy. I really enjoyed this role as I was able to work with my peers to support them with there studies and to raise issues they were facing.

I am now working in a community team for adults with learning disabilities. I love the role and enjoy working closely with professional from other disciplines.

Additionally, I have also joined the RCOT specialist section for people with learning disabilities and taken on a role in the committee as there social media lead. As part of this role I manage all the social media accounts and, with my co-worker, have started a podcast call “A day in the life of an LD OT” which showcases the amazing work of OT’s working in learning disabilities.

I was intrigued by this project as I meet a lot of other band fives and have informal conversation about areas of the roles they are struggling with and I have noticed a lot of reoccurring themes. Looking at the potential topics the organisers hope the project will cover; I think they look interesting and pretty spot on. I think the project has the potential to produce a useful tool for other band fives starting practice.

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would it be:

Enjoy it, and remember you are still learning. Use your supervision and take advantage of all training and outside opportunities given to you.

Siobhan Scanlon

My journey into the world of Occupational therapy has been a long time coming.  I knew from an early age I wanted to help others, and so after studying law at university, trained to be a solicitor. I  worked in law for 11 years, during which time I had a young family, which ultimately led me to change work priorities.   

After some time out, I  retrained to be a careers consultant at a local university, where I worked  for ten years.  It was through this role, that I found occupational therapy, researching the role for psychology students. My curiosity deepened, and I realised, I had informally being doing this role for many years in various guises.   After failing to persuade my children to head for University, I took the plunge and never looked back.  

Being a newly qualified occupational therapist at any age, is daunting and, despite significant work/life experience, the start of my  first clinical role, has been exciting, scary and surreal.   

I am looking forward  to making new connections with fellow NQ professionals, to share experiences and build a creative resource to support the well-being and occupational balance of our profession. 

The world of occupational therapy is so diverse, with a range of traditional and contemporary roles to choose from. The only certainty is however, the variable and limited support resources available to us.  This project will offer the chance to work smarter together to explore online self help coaching, delivering themed resources to support our confidence, success and well-being .   

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would be:

The opportunity to practice professionally is much anticipated.  It is not without its challenge, and maybe the reconfiguration of your expectations of occupational therapy in a new region or practice setting.  Trust in yourself and the knowledge you bring to the role and above all continue to expect the unexpected ! Be brave and your courage will be the reward for you and your patients and colleagues.  

Deb Starking

I qualified at Glyndwr University in 2019 and was lucky enough to get my dream job as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist at Powys Teaching Health Board.  I had a placement with this team in my second year and I cannot believe how fortunate I was when a new Band 5 job came up just as I was finishing my degree.  We’re a very small team so there are lots of opportunities to learn and to be involved in a wide variety of tasks. 

Being a newly qualified occupational therapist is tough; trying to balance newly acquired knowledge with existing service plans and ways of working whilst trying to forge your identity as a practitioner is a unique journey.  This project is about trying to find your individual way of navigating through the first year, supporting new generations of occupational therapists and that is hugely exciting!  

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would it be:

Being an OT is wonderful.  It’s not always easy; there will be hard times.  Hang in there. Keep asking questions, find safe people you can talk to without effort or pretence and don’t lose sight of the things that make you an OT, unique and valuable.  You can do this.

Paul Wilkinson

I graduated in June 2019 from Teesside University. Currently I work for a local North-East NHS Foundation Trust and enrolled onto a band 5 graduate rotation. My first rotational post being within Orthopaedics and Surgery, with the occasional opportunity to experience the medical wards. I am participating in a graduate preceptorship which supports my clinical competencies and learning. I have a keen interest in research, continuing professional development and occupational therapy education and in the future aspire to be involved in occupational therapy curriculum. Aspects of clinical practice I enjoy are falls prevention, service improvement, trauma orthopaedics, supporting ward discharges and patient flow. I am extremely excited about this project and the opportunity to share ideas, network, and create a valuable resource, supporting the transition from student to novice practitioner.

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would be:

“Remember, you are an occupational therapist with unique and valuable core skills. Be proud and show case these skills, think about your actions, use the support of your seniors, but most of all enjoy making a difference”

Katy Williams

Hello, my name is Katy. I am currently working at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital on a rotation post. I studied at the University of the West of England and graduated July 2019. I started work in September 2019, after spending the summer travelling. I have loved and embraced the journey from student to newly qualified therapist, which is why I am so excited about this upcoming project. I feel so passionate about OT, and seeing the difference it can make to individuals’ lives, as they say “Occupational Therapy is a work of heart”. I am very excited about undertaking this project and meeting Occupational Therapists from different settings and embracing the range of experiences, skills and expertise the group will entail.

If I had one thing to say to a newly qualified OT it would be: Embrace the Occupational Therapy world with enthusiasm and leave your mark. Remember the phrase “remember when you wanted what you currently have”, remember how hard you have worked to get to this moment, now is your time to go and enjoy it and be unique with it.