An Insider’s View of Occupational Therapy

On Tuesday night I hosted an #OTalk on Twitter. I was very nervous about making a mistake or a #CPjerk as I like to call them as sometimes due to my involuntary movements, I do make a typo or two. But it went well, I struggled to keep up, but I think I managed to like and retweet most responses.

Thank you to all those that took part as this was part of my #VirtualOTPlacement. It will also help with other placements and prepare me for the world of work. I now feel less alone in my transition from a service user to a health care professional.

One of my questions for the OTalk was about the value of occupational therapy and if being a service user or having a family member who received OT input changes people’s views on the delivery of occupational therapy and its core values. I felt like this was a crucial question to explore because as discussed in my last blog post I shared experiences of OT that wasn’t 10 out of 10. The purpose of this discussion wasn’t to make a noise and call people out it was just to share experiences to improve the profession.

How does inside experience effect views on the delivery of occupational therapy and it’s values?

I also threw this question in to explore the positives and celebrate the beauty of the profession.

How pivotal OT was in my recovery. Looking beyond just the surface, taking a holistic perspective & being consistent. As a child experiencing OT, I always remember how kind they were, but how the allowed me to feel safe when doing graded work. #OTalk.’– Kayleigh Wain, @kayleighwainOT

From studying OT, I have become increasingly more thankful to my own occupational therapists as now I understand the values and demands of the profession. Just like Kayleigh mentioned it enables you to look beyond the surface- when I was younger, I got why my OT used to make me play with beads to improve my fine motor skills. But now, I can use activity analysis to make sense of my therapy as the tasks I carried out during therapy worked on so much more than my fine motor skills. As an ex-service user, I feel like I can now evaluate my OT input and recognise the core values. How I view the core values of OT will be different to someone who hasn’t received occupational therapy input they’ll never know how much of an impact these values make.

From my point of view, these values struck out so much so that they are the reason that I’m in the profession today.

‘It has made me recognise how much the environment can disabled me much more so that my disability (deaf) itself and I see this all the time with my clients in practice and how by making small changes can have a big impact. #OTalk – Susan Griffiths, @SusanGriffiths5

I agree with this and I think having more of an understanding of occupational therapy and its core values can be both good and bad in situations such as this. The reason being is for example, in October for World CP Day I went on the bus in my electric wheelchair for the first time. I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about doing the challenge because I was overthinking it and applying activity analysis to it. So, although having this knowledge helps in some situations in other situations it can cause you to second guess the situation.

But, on the other hand, having the first-hand experience enhances procedural reasoning as functional problems are easier to identify as you can relate and therefore you can make a difference as just like Susan said small changes can have a big impact!

‘Has a huge influence, I have a level of insight and understanding, that others without a disability may not have, i.e. it’s impact on daily occupations, and how to combat these. #otalk I’ve also had poor experiences, including poor #OT, so I’m aware how this feels.’ -Rachel Booth, @OT_rach

I’ve always said that when I’m a qualified occupational therapist I will have both a professional and personal understanding it’s about being able to empathise rather than just sympathise by having insight and understanding. It is also important to make people aware of the bad experiences as when you’re an OT yourself it easier to spot the good and the not so good just like any profession.

I wanted to find out if people feel like the core values have been present when receiving OT.

If these core values haven’t been noticed can they be classed as ‘core values’?

The fact that Rachel is aware of this will make her work so much better and so much more unique. We’re not saying that profession in perfect but, by picking up on these situations it will only improve the quality of care.

‘I saw my grandpa receive OT after having a stroke resulting hemiplegia. Watching the OT help with all his goals of getting back to bowls and driving really made me appreciate person centred practice.’– Jasmin Laffy, @JasminLaffy

When I went for my driving assessment, the lady who assessed me was an occupational therapist and I wouldn’t have known this if she had not asked me what I wanted to do at university. This made me appreciate the profession so much more as I realised how under-valued the profession was. Like Jasmin said seeing practice first-hand makes you appreciate the client-centred practice. When I was receiving OT it was harder to see the values as I was younger meaning I can’t remember all the details so, when I was at the driving assessment although I was yet to start my studies I can look back now and see the core values of the professions and I was certainly treated holistically.

Overall, I think it’s fair to say that people still think highly of the occupational therapy values after seeing it from a different angle. But it’s also great that we can pick up on the times were the core concepts of occupational therapy weren’t shown, to improve the service and quality of care.

Thank you for reading,

Georgia
@georgiavine4213
@GeorgiaVineOT

National CP Awareness Day 2020: My Experiences as a Service User

Happy National CP Awareness Day 2020!!

Due to this placement I have been more focused on delivering occupational therapy content rather than cerebral palsy content. In this blog I aim to share a bit of both, alongside some photos of my younger self, to illustrate my journey.

As many of you know, I have received occupational therapy input from birth up to the age of 18. I always valued every profession but my OT input always stuck out the most, not in the sense that it was more significant, but I was always interested in what my OT’s did as they help me out in a lot of ways. Besides the equipment I was given that I’ve already covered in a previous blog, my therapy sessions had a big impact on me so much so that my family and I started exploring activities myself out of my therapy sessions to improve my fine motor skills.

So, to start this off let’s go through some examples of how occupational therapy ‘leaked’ out into all areas of my life outside the sessions.

My parents always made sure that I stayed active and I took part in many after school clubs as a child which to me was ‘just for fun’ but for my parents, it was seeking out opportunities to improve both my fine and gross motor skills as well as doing my daily physio programme at home. But one activity that I took part in improved my fine motor skills massively and is one of the reasons why I wanted to study occupational therapy is the piano.

It’s not like me to be playing Ed Sheeran!

Once I started playing the piano my fine motor skills improved massively in terms of dexterity. This is why the NSTP logo is a green piano because the piano made me realised how significant OT is. I started off with basic tunes as it was very hard to play using both hands, I am right-handed and whenever I’m using my right hand my left hand tends to wander off. I had a lot of work coming my way, but I was up for the challenge. It challenges parts of my brain that need to be challenged as by playing the piano I must work against my brain. I admit I’m not the best pianist in the world, but this doesn’t matter all the matters is that I enjoy it!

I want to bring this family tradition back but, unfortunately it wouldn’t be as tall!

Playing is essential to any child as we all know and since studying OT and learning more about activity analysis as well as doing a paediatric placement, I have learnt just how vital play is. As a child, my house was full of toys, but little did, I know that my parents use to buy toys purposely to improve my fine and gross motor skills… I thought it was just a coincidence when I played with a toy during therapy and then I’d magically get a new toy a few days later! I played many games just like any other child but obviously, there’s a reason why my parents bought building blocks and challenged me to build the tallest tower or why it was a family tradition to build an Easter egg wall every Easter. We used to always try out anything new that we came across chunky pen, pencils you name it! I had some cool crayons that I put on the end of my finger- I still couldn’t stay within the lines though!

I was always Cinderella and Matilda was always sleeping beauty!

My family often used to describe my garden as an adventure play area where we were kids- it had everything slide, swing and seesaw set, trampoline- you name it we had it!

As previously mentioned, I’ve had a good experience of being a service user and feel like my OT input has been quite significant and as you have gathered from the examples it has shaped mine and my family’s life. I’ve always enjoyed going to therapy I don’t know why, many kids would hate it, but I knew that I gained so much from it and I really appreciate every single person that’s played a role in my care. I think I wasn’t too fazed by being a service user because the older I got the more I understood what my needs were and my parents and I used to always have a big discussion before an annual review or consultant appointment to ensure that we made to most of the time we had with professionals I am thankful that my parents always included me in making these decisions.

My only experience as a service user that wasn’t the best was that I felt like the ending of my OT process was quite abrupt. For my final OT input from child services, I had an OT that I never met which didn’t feel right. However, using my clinical reasoning I can see why a band 5 was sent as they would have just collated information from my files and ask my previous OT’s.

But is this still okay? Is this client-centred?

By developing my #VirtualOTPlacement I can create a bridge using the online community with my knowledge as a service user and a student as I can see both sides.

Overall, I think highly of my OT input as if not I probably wouldn’t be here today. Now that I understand OT more with being a student I appreciate what the occupational therapy profession has done for me even more than I did before. I’ve had a good experience of being a service user and it has made me realise that you can turn the negatives into positives and make the challenges fun. I remember salivating on multiple occasions in my therapy sessions as a child because I was that engrossed in the activity then I’d end up laughing- to be honest it was ugly! Those who know me well know how bad I get when I laugh!

So here I am on my professional journey to become an occupational therapist, as part of my journey I am researching, developing and participating in a virtual placement. As such I am required to deliver an intervention, this week I was leading and facilitating #OTalk an online forum for occupational therapists exploring a range of topics. This week the discussion centred around the ‘Experiences of the Journey From a Service User to a Professional’. From my #OTalk I am doing a series of blogs to help me unpick each question and make sense of it. The first blog of the series will be published on Friday at 3 pm where I will be exploring the value of occupational therapy and if being a service user or having a family member who received OT input changed people’s views on the delivery of occupational therapy and its core values.

So, for National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day my message, to all those who are struggling with having to do therapy and coming to terms with your disability is that it will all be worthwhile in the end… Who knows you may grow to love it and if you’re like me decide that you want to do it for the rest of your life!

Thank you for reading,

Georgia
@georgiavine4213
@GeorgiaVineOT

How We Can Stay Connected With Others in Unprecedented Times

The main aim of my #VirtualOTPlacement is educating people about the importance of online communities and over the upcoming months, online communities may be the only way anyone can stay connected and not just disabled people due to COVID-19. I must admit on a personal level I’m very relieved that I’m doing this placement especially now that cerebral palsy is one of the named conditions to have an increased risk to CONVID-19 according to Guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and protecting older people and vulnerable adults.

Online communities are vital for many disabled individuals as it allows us to connect. I for one wouldn’t be writing this blog today without the support of the online disabled community. This community has helped me to realise that my disability is a strength and not a weakness. I have connected with many disabled individuals online in which some I have been lucky enough to meet. Being able to connect with someone who understands my disability is great as enables me to share things that my able-bodied friends can’t relate to and I know that I am not the only disabled individual that has gained a lot for the online community in recent years.

The online community means support and shared experiences.’– Francesca Hughes, @franariella

Variety, measured opinions and support’- Sue Hilsdon, @therapy2optimum

The online community also enables parents to stay in contact and share experiences of raising their child with a disability. ”There’s no handbook on parenting” so therefore, there’s no handbook on how to raise a disabled child meaning parents aren’t aware of the hurdles that come up. Online communities enable parents to connect and to feel like they’re not alone it can be very lonely when no one around you is ‬experiencing similar situations. But online communities allow experiences to be shared making people feel less isolated not only this they can shared tips too I often learn many tips from the disability blogs that I read.

‘The online community has been the greatest support for us since discovering my son Tommy would be born with Down’s syndrome. We have made so many online friends who are always there to lift us up when needed and share all the joyous moments with.’ – Amanda Gaughan, @my_upside_down_rainbow

Many of us up and down the country are experiencing self-isolation. It’s hard having to self-isolate when you’re used to being a ‘busy bee’ but for many of us, this is only temporary. For some disabled individuals’ self-isolation doesn’t change daily life that much as leaving the house is already harder for them. A lot of people already use the online to keep connected with family and friends as ‘popping out’ is not just straight forward. It’ll be a lot harder when it comes to activities of daily living though, how can disabled individuals self-isolate? I know I couldn’t I’m far too dependent on my parents and when I’m ill this is when I need help the most.

‘It allows my son with quadriplegic spastic CP and epilepsy to stay in contact with me via FaceTime.’ – Nicola Oddy, @alilou250969

For OT’s working in the third-sector or somewhere, where there is no other OT’s it can be hard as they don’t have an OT colleague to bounce ideas off. But being online and connecting with others can bridge this gap by providing reassurance and support when not even all their work colleagues understand the ins and outs of occupational therapy. As some OT’s do not have the title occupational therapists in their work environment which means the not everyone, they come in contact with at work will know that they’re a registered OT.

‘Peer support when I was the only OT working at my company.’ – Ellie Rosslyn, @EllieOTforKids

Being online allows us to connect with others internationally. This is important as it allows us to gain new insights and explore what is happening within occupational therapy worldwide. For some of us, it’s hard to get over to international conferences due to money, support and medical needs etc. But by sharing information and connecting with other professionals online we can learn from each other and share knowledge. Alright, you won’t get the same experience as you would at a conference but it’s better than nothing and this year, creating webinars and hosting live chats may be our only option during the pandemic. I don’t know about you, but I like to keep myself busy if we can still share content and keep our brain working by connecting online than this will increase our wellbeing.

‘Connecting internationally and discussing the delivery and core skills of occupational therapy.’ – Margaret Spencer, @margaretOT360

‘Support. In each sense of the word’– Laura Elle, @Laura_Does

As mentioned, we can learn a lot from online communities through pages such as #OTalk I join #OTalk every Tuesday at 8 pm and I learn so much every week! A lot is happening through #OTalk and on Twitter since the COVID-19 outbreak as OT’s are taking to Twitter to share meaningful occupations that people can carry out during self-isolation by using the hashtag #occupationinisolation. As an occupational therapy student, I think it’s vital at this time that I take to social media to remind others of the simple and meaningful occupations they can achieve without leaving the house I am very much enjoying scrolling through my Twitter feed to see how the OT community is coming together. But there needs to be more. A lot of people are scared of being active online and rightly so there are people out there that target, bully and trolls others but, if you use the online community in a safe way and connect with the right users it can be a great place. Logging onto Twitter on a Tuesday night and connecting with other OT’s and OT students from around the world improves not only my knowledge but my wellbeing.

‘The online community is a place I can share information but also bounce ideas off people and see what others have done before me. In this time of social distancing it is also a support system, a place people can come together to pick each other up when times are tough.’ -Kristina Renee Marchiori, @MarchioriRenee

‘It means a chance to share, educate and learn. I feel both my personal and professional development is hugely impacted by online communities and the use of social media. I feel as though I reap the benefits and fortunately do not experience many negative effects.’- Annie Severn, @AnnieSevern_OT

My OTalk about my Experiences of the Journey From a Service User to a Professional has been brought forward to next Tuesday at 8 pm. Feel free to join- even if you loiter!

I’m fortunate as this placement has come at the right time for me as many of my placement plans can still go ahead, but at times likes this it’s family that is important. Which is why my featured imaged for this blog is me with the 3 people I love the most in this world. I’m lucky that my family and I can all be together during the pandemic so, from my family to yours stay safe.

Links to online communities where we can connect during this time:

https://www.coronabuddy.co.uk/

http://beyondcovid-19.com/

Thank you for reading,

Georgia
@georgiavine4213
@GeorgiaVineOT

How Will I Define ‘Independent’ as an Occupational Therapist?

I’ve recently just turned 20 and have just written a blog- What I Would Tell My 10-year-old Self which explains a bit about what my disability has taught me over the past 10 years. Since being 20 I’ve reflected a lot, and a big topic that always comes up is my independence.

As I’m getting older, I’m becoming more aware of the effects of my disability and therefore I have more of an understanding of what is classed as ‘normal’ for a person of my age and this makes me question how independent I can be when I qualify as an occupational therapist…

Since starting my #VirtualOTPlacement I’m feeling a lot more confident than I have done on my previous placement as I’ve had no other choice but to be independent as this how the role-emerging placements works. I’ve also had amazing feedback from many OT’s on Twitter which has helped me to believe in myself.

However, when I talk about confidence, I don’t mean the confidence to speak up as I feel like I’m quite vocal- hence why I’m a blogger. I mean to have confidence in my professional capabilities. It’s only week 3 I still have a lot of events coming up during this placement that will help me to build up my confidence in which I will take with me to my next placement. But I can’t help but thinking that when I go on my next traditional placement this confidence will decreased as I know I won’t be able to be as independent. I mean it’s a given this is the most independent placement for anyone because of the nature of the role-emerging placement. I don’t have face-to-face contact with my supervisor every day and I have more control over what I’m doing. But I’m talking about my physical capabilities as my next placement is going to be a lot physically demanding and cause more fatigue so, therefore, I will need help evidencing my independence.

I have a placement learning agreement to identify the reasonable adjustments the are required under the Equality Act (2010). The agreement covers everything that I find challenging on placement and now I’ve passed two traditional placements I have a better idea of what my needs on placement are.

I remember when I went to my first placement for a visit, when they asked me what my needs were I gave them a very basic answer, because the truth was I hadn’t been on placement before I didn’t know what I was and what I wasn’t going to struggle with.

Now we have a better idea of what the challenges are, and towards the end of my last placement my educator could accommodate my needs a lot better as we figured out that I needed a bit longer to write notes and that if I was just doing office work and felt fatigue then there would be nothing stopping me from doing this at home.

My last placement also involved a lot of equipment which I found challenging, so, it was said that I should talk someone through how to set up the equipment to demonstrate my understanding. But is this it? Will me explaining how something is done to someone so they can do it for me be the most independent I’ll feel when I qualify?

I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never be as independent as other occupational therapists, in practice and will always need help as my physical needs aren’t going to change. But I’d like to think that there’s a way around some of the obstacles that I will face.

I really enjoyed my paediatric placement, and I don’t want to say that, that’s the area for me as I’m still to experience a mental health placement but this is the area that I’ve enjoyed working in the most so far. This placement wasn’t as physically demanding as my last placement in assistive technology, but it was still challenging at times… I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to hydrotherapy anytime soon. So, therefore, if I was to work in paediatrics I would need help with carrying and setting up equipment which you’d think is no big deal, but it does impact my confidence as it makes me feel that I’m not making as much of an impact.

When I’m working this view may change as I’ll have my own caseload and I’ll be a lot more involved in the service which will naturally increase my self-belief. But it still leaves me wondering what my independence will be…

Whatever my ‘independence’ is I’ll be okay with it I mean this time 3 years ago I didn’t think I’d be able to drive so who knows what the future holds, I’ve just got to continue to be optimistic. But I also need to be realistic with myself, I’m never going to be the greatest at manual handling. This is completely fine I may not even go into a physically demanding job. I guess, my point is that I don’t have to be totally independent to be satisfied with my independence. But I’m happy with this and I know that one day I will be that occupational therapist that I want to be as I am very determined to reach for my potential in my career- in whichever area of occupational therapy I end up in. However, it can be hard to know what this will look like and how long it’ll take me to get there as who knows what physical demands and unexpected battles, I may face along the way…

Thank you for reading,

Georgia
@georgiavine4213
@GeorgiaVineOT

The Online Borders Between Being a Professional and a Disabled Activist

This week on my virtual occupational therapy placement I have been doing the normal placement bits and pieces including a bit of policy reading about RCOTs (Royal College of Occupational Therapists) social media guidelines, Introduction to social media, (2019). I must admit I’d been putting policy reading off as this is normally seen as the essential but boring part of placement, however to my surprise it wasn’t boring as it made me question whether I can use social media as a professional and a disabled activist at the same time.

Due to being a disabled activist, I’m on a lot of social media platform Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I mean I do post more personal things on Instagram and on my private Facebook profile but apart from this most of the things I do and post about are published for the world to see and I wouldn’t have it any other way as I very much enjoy being a disabled activist. I see my disability as a tool, and I want to use that tool to the best of my abilities but this does make me questions my role about and if I can be a disabled activist and a professional in the online world. A common question about professional online profiles is… Should professional and personal profiles be kept separate? I keep my professional and personal profiles separate on most platforms that I’m on apart from Twitter. This is because on my Twitter profile if I’m not posing anything OT related then its disability-related so therefore, I don’t feel the need to separate them especially with my target audience for my blog being disabled individual and healthcare professionals.

However, after reading the policies I started to question if this was the right thing to do… I noted that the guidelines mentioned that you can’t be directly negative on social media. However, my role as a disabled activist is to call someone out if I feel that they’ve been ablest.

For example, a few weeks ago, I tweeted this:

As it happens on this occasion, I didn’t name the bar I was in because I couldn’t find a Twitter account for them but if I could, I would have tagged them to call them out. But as an online professional you shouldn’t be directly negative according to the guidelines. Which goes against some of the content I post as a disabled activist. So, where do I stand? Can I even post content like this anymore? Do I need separate accounts?

In all honesty, I don’t really know what my best option is and even from discussing this in supervision, it’s still something that I need to go away and think about. I know it’s not all about views, but I’ve put a lot into building up my online profile and I don’t really want to change it. I can re-evaluate it, yes but until I’ve had a long think about this, I don’t know what I need to change and if changing it will be worthwhile.

Another point that made me question myself is giving advice to service users. As many of you know on my blog, I don’t just publish OT related content I also write many blogs about cerebral palsy awareness and will continue to do so. This means that sometimes I get emails from parents or people with CP asking for advice which I guess is okay if it’s anything CP related as I have many connections that I can direct them towards. But what if is something OT related? I can’t give out advice to service users as that’s deemed as unprofessional. Therefore, this makes me question putting my contact details on my blog. But this is not a personal email and I want people to be able to contact me, so I can connect with other OT’s and bloggers. So yet again where do I stand? I could put something on the blog about not being able to give out occupational therapy advice, maybe? I guess when I started this blog, I never thought my profile would be that big that I needed to do this and maybe I need to re-evaluate the structure of my site.

The final contradiction I picked up on when reading the policies was about having content published online and how people may choose to publish something anonymously in which this is far from what I do. I regularly have my work published on my own website and many other platforms in which I sign my name at the end and provide a link to my Twitter handle. Which again makes me question if I need to have a clear differentiation between my occupational therapy work and my disabled activism work. During supervision, my educator said, ‘you’re an occupational therapist and that’s your professional identity’ and of course I wouldn’t want to do anything the jeopardise my career. But I’ve never going to stop standing up for disability rights and what I believe because it is harder getting your voice heard when you’ve got a disability and now, I’ve got this platform I’m not going to shy away…

So, does this mean that I’ll have to choose between being a professional and a disabled activist?

My educator brought me this book to supervision this week. I think it’s going to be a useful tool- the geek inside of me can’t wait to start highlighting and putting sticky notes on the key pages. I’m hoping that this book along with reflecting and using my clinical reasoning will help me to make sense of all the questions that have come up in this blog and will help me to decide my next steps. I’m not going to have any answers to these questions until I’ve completed this placement as it will take a bit of time and research to come to a concluded judgement. Maybe I’m overthinking it because I don’t want to be seen to be ‘doing the wrong thing’ or be seen to be doing something that I’m ‘only just getting away with’. But doesn’t someone have to challenge these views in order for them to be developed?

What do you think?

Thank you for reading and thank you for your amazing support with the placement,

Georgia
@georgiavine4213
and dare I do it… @GeorgiaVineOT