Occupational Therapy Student

Transitioning from a Service User to a Healthcare Professional

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that at the moment, I’m on my level 5 occupational therapy placement. I’ve always said that having the experience of being a service user will help me in my career- some of my lecturers and previous educators have said that my disability is a great tool in this career. However, for me to use my disability as a tool I must get over an emotional barrier first, which, isn’t straight forward and is proving to be more of a challenge than I thought it would be…

Being able to empathise rather than just sympathise with a service user will enable a better therapeutic relationship but, when the understanding is so strong it can be challenging to deal with this emotional response. This is when it becomes harder because feelings can only be dealt with if I’m aware that they’re rising too close to the surface. I’ve always been open that I’ve had occupational therapy input when talking with service users and I always will be; at times the fact that I have had occupational therapy can hold me back during intervention implementation. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am very determined and like to aim high in anything I do especially when it comes to my studies. But this emotional barrier is proving to be more difficult to overcome than I initially thought. I like to consider myself as a confident individual who is up for having a go at anything; this emotional barrier is affecting me in ways that I never thought it would when it comes to intervention implementation and making a professional decision.

I’m coming towards the end of my 8-week placement and I’m not going to lie, I’ve not been as hands-on as I could have been during the first 6 weeks of placement. But it wasn’t until my educator questioned this until I realised why I’d been holding back-the reason I’ve been holding back is that I’m going through an emotional transition. How can I suddenly be the professional and be the one making decisions? Being able to empathise is a great advantage to the service user but in terms of me being a healthcare professional it’s actually a lot more emotionally challenging. Believing in my professional knowledge and being able to make confident professional decisions is difficult. I also feel like I have been holding back due to my speech impairment not because it’s knocks my confidence; because I don’t want to cause more of a challenge for the service users. For the past 6 weeks, I’ve been very quiet on visits and been happy to take a step back and observe but, I’m a second-year student I have to do a lot more than observe to get the grade that I want and achieve my full potential.

Now I have recognised that I am going through this emotional transition it has become a lot clear as to why I’m not my normal confident self when out on visits and I have my educator to thank for this. If it wasn’t for my educator challenging my mindset I don’t think I would have realised that this mindset was the reason why I was holding back and the only way to challenge this mindset is to be thrown out of my comfort zone and take lead during a visit. In which I and my educator have been working on and since we unpicked this during supervision, I have been more hands-on during visits and managed to take the lead on a visit. However, this is a slow process and my confidence isn’t going to come overnight but I feel like I am making a start and working towards this.

My educator and other members of the team have been really understanding of this emotional transition and are aware that this process is not happening at a fast pace. But they have given me and continue to give me a lot of support around this and I believe that everything happens for a reason because without this support this transition would be a lot harder. Therefore, supervision is key, placement is a massive learning opportunity but for me, it enables me to make more sense of my situation and gain insight into what my limitations are going to be in the world of work.

I’m going to have physical limitations when I’m working but how do I know what these physical limitations are going to be until I experience this first-hand on placement? I thought that my physical limitations and speech impairment were always going to be a barrier on placement but they’re provisions that can be put into place, for example, I’m going to try an app that helps me make phone calls. I’ll never know until I try and put myself in these uncomfortable positions. I’ve had this mindset in everything else I’ve been involved in for the last 19 years, so why should I should I let placement be any different?

It’s hard to admit emotional vulnerability but once this is achieved the hard part is over!

If you used to be a service user and are now a healthcare professional how did you conquer this emotional transition?

Thank you for reading,


13 thoughts on “Transitioning from a Service User to a Healthcare Professional”

  1. Great blog Georgina,

    There are many OTs who have been in-patients in mental health, neuro, eating disorders etc.

    The challenge for you is that your disability isn’t visible. Other OTs have the option to disclose or not, most don’t, even to employers.

    Maybe like Francesca Martinez, it’s a given that people/clients know you have received services. The strength of that is that few people will say, ‘you don’t know what it’s like…’

    You actually don’t as everyone’s narrative is different, but you have a connection that you can develop.

    1. Georgia Vine (she/hers) – I am Georgia, an occupational therapist working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Occupational Therapy at The University of Huddersfield. My passions aside from activism and occupational therapy are reading, theatre, and music, including gigs and festivals! I am Head Ambassador for CP Teens UK and a disability blogger writing about my lived experienced of cerebral palsy and life as a disabled occupational therapist. In 2021 I was named a Rising Star on the Shaw Trust's #DisabilityPower100. I am a founding member of AbleOTUK an advocacy and network group for occupational therapists and students with lived experience of disability. I am currently writing my debut book to dismantle ableism in occupational therapy practice. Email: georgia@notsoterriblepalsy.com
      Georgia Vine says:

      Thank you! Yeah that’s a very good point!

Leave a ReplyCancel reply