With a virtual role-emerging placement being so new to occupational therapy I thought I’d share some top tips that my educator and I think is key in order for you to make the most out of your #VirtualOTPlacement.
Plan 6 months before.
If this is new to your university then you need to plan at least 6 months before to make sure that you’re meeting all the requirements. It took myself and Margaret quite a while to plan my placement and figure out how to meet all the placement competencies such as following the OT process, enabling effective communication, policy and safety awareness, reflecting and evaluating on learning etc.
Research around your intervention idea to ensure evidence-based practice.
You need to ensure that your intervention is purposeful for your client group, so you need to do some research before. Yes, do something that you’re passionate about; but primarily it has to be meaningful to your service users. My blogs have included feedback from others. I could have just written a blog with my own view’s but having just my opinion isn’t very reliable.
Connect to a wider audience.
Connecting to a wider audience depends on what your intervention is based on as previously discussed. But if your placement requires these connections you are going to need to read around this. There are communities out there – #OTalk, The Occupational Therapy Hub and Scope. They won’t come to you- you have to go to them, prepare an email outline to send to organisations that you want to include in your placement.
Extra supervision- 2 hours a week.
Traditionally on a role-emerging placement you don’t have supervision with your long-arm supervisor every week but on this placement, you need it as being on your own can be overwhelming. You need someone to run your ideas by. Additionally, if you are supervising a virtual placement you need to be checking your emails regularly some days Margaret and I can exchange emails up to 10 or more times!
Make sure that your presentation brings everything together and explains your clinical reasoning.
Due to the nature of my placement, I had to make sure the presentation was the best it could possibly be. So, you’ll need to set aside a lot of time for the presentation more than you would on a traditional placement, especially if it’s a webinar as it isn’t straight forward… Try adding a communication aid to the mix- that wasn’t easy!!
Pick a topic that you’re passionate about.
An advantage of my virtual placement was that I wasn’t limited to a specific client group. However, my placement is slightly different in the sense that it’s a pioneering role-emerging placement therefore, I have not done a specific activity for my intervention. Whatever your placement goals are, they needs to be meaningful to you otherwise it’s going to be a boring 12 weeks especially seen as you’re alone most of the time.
Look at national and international policies.
If you’re flying solo you don’t have any in-house policies therefore you need to be looking on a national and international scale. I’ve looked at RCOT, HCPC and WFOT guidelines about social media and working online to make sure that I’m meeting professional competencies. You need to make service users aware that you are delivering an occupational therapy intervention and not giving out occupational therapy advice. It’s a given- maintain GDPR as if you’re a student it’s unlikely that you’ll have an NHS encrypted email.
Seeking interprofessional working opportunities.
You don’t have an Occupational Therapist on your shoulder never mind other professionals so you need to connect with them online so that you can collaborate. Again, have an outline email prepared. I was worried about this section the most but through research and getting my work out there I have had plenty of opportunities for interprofessional working. Examples of mine have been discussing with OT Without Borders and linking with OT staff and students from other universities.
Make the most of group supervision.
At first, I didn’t want to take up too much time in group supervision as we’d already planned my placement before I started and since COVID-19 I’ve been less hesitant as my placement has been the least affected. But I’ve realised that it’s there for a reason and sooner or later you’ll need it. It was from group supervision that I realised the online forum wasn’t the best option for me as I wouldn’t have been able to dedicate the right amount of time to it and I was already meeting the placement criteria with producing the blogs.
Have fun and make the most of it!
This is the most independent placement you’ll have whilst studying so make the most of it! Reflecting on what you’ve done each week is a must for any placement but for a virtual placement one reflection a week is the minimum- you always need to be thinking of CPD. For example, during this placement, I have been reflecting on OTalk every week. This placement is so different therefore reflecting can help you to make sense of what you’ve done and why you’ve done it.
I hope this has helped you establish your virtual placement. Please leave a line in the comments to ask any questions!
Thank you for reading,