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,


Why I Study Occupational Therapy

I have been considering writing this blog for some time now and this is for two reasons. The first reason being that I just feel that I need to explain why I was drawn to occupational therapy and the second reason being to discuss my future with occupational therapy. But on the other hand these two reasons were the same reasons why I didn’t want to write this blog as I shouldn’t feel that I need to justify why I study what I study and I didn’t really want to discuss my future without knowing what the future holds. Then I realised that this blog post would be a great blog post to refer back to in the future and could potentially be a learning kerb so I thought I would give it a go, and at this minute whilst I’m sat here writing this I don’t know where this blog post is going to end up! So just stay with me because I do have a point or two to make!

Here we go point one and before I make this point, I am sorry if this comes across in a controversial way but this is a question that I have been meaning to answer for quite some time. I’m not going to bore you with all the reasons why I chose occupational therapy and why the course stuck out for me. But just for a bit of background information – occupational therapy was the right course for me as I’ve always wanted to explore the field of healthcare. OT also entails a lot of problem-solving as sometimes with occupational therapy the answer isn’t right in front of you so seen as I love maths (sorry I’ve mentioned it again) this felt great! Not to mention that the signature colour for occupational therapy is green just like CP I mean can it be more perfect!

However, the aim of this blog is not to rewrite my personal statement the aim is to answer a few questions that I have been asked around occupational therapy since starting my university journey. So, let’s get the big question out of the way… ‘Why go into the system when you’ve just come out of it?’. I have been asked this question few times, sometimes it hasn’t been as direct as others but I’m capable of reading between the lines. I find this question quite annoying especially when it’s someone I’ve just met because it just makes me aware that I am probably never going to stop answering this question. Apart from the fact that I might not even go into the system (which relates to point two), the thought of potentially going into the system and changing people’s life makes me feel even more determined to complete this course. This is not because I want to change the system. A big reason why I want to go into occupational therapy is because when I was younger my occupational therapists were just phenomenal and they played that much of significant role in my life, that they inspired me to go for this career. If I can make half the impact on an individual that they’ve made on my family and I then I know it is all worthwhile.

The other questions I have been asked, have been around my capabilities within occupational therapy, these questions don’t annoy me as such because yes, my disability will always be the elephant in the room; again, this is based on so little understanding. Occupational therapy is such a board profession as you could be working in a clinic or hospital or you could be working in a driving skills centre. So, I think eventually I’ll find an area of occupational therapy that I want to work in, I’m not saying that it won’t be harder and that my options aren’t limited because it would be wrong of me to think that they weren’t. But I know that there is certainly a role in occupational therapy out there for me, that works with my needs.

This then links on to point two… I’m only in my first year at university so I don’t have my heart set on an area of occupational therapy just yet but I have a better idea of what areas I want to and don’t want to explore than I did a year ago. A few weeks ago, I did a presentation about my blog, I wanted to make this presentation slightly more interesting and wanted to talk about more than just blogging. For a while now I’ve said that I’ve wanted to link occupational therapy in with blogging, so I had the idea of doing research about the impact of occupational therapy online to incorporate this into my presentation. Then after researching, I found that there wasn’t much around this, and I realised that this maybe the area suited for me.

As you probably know if you follow me on Facebook this presentation was done recently therefore, I haven’t really had the chance to investigate this any further. However, prior to this I had also had a discussion with my university lectures about linking blogging in with occupational therapy, and from this, they had advised me to write this blog. I’ve been towing with the idea of writing this blog for sometime now because I didn’t want to tell everyone about my future in occupational therapy without knowing what would happen. I asked myself a lot of questions around this with one of the big ones being ‘Where am I going to start?’ and therefore I decided to write this blog because this is where I am going to start. I can’t start something without a general idea of where it’s going to go just like I’d built up my work online before starting Not So Terrible Palsy. So, this is me starting my journey within occupational therapy!

You’re probably thinking why this blog is named Why I Study Occupational Therapy and why did I talk about this if this is not the main reason why I wrote this blog. This is because the reasons for studying occupational therapy is also listed in point two as well as in point one, even if it doesn’t seem apparent. In my first blog post, I wrote ‘I believe that I was born with Cerebral Palsy for a reason’ and from my previous work, I’ve realised this reason could be to create a link between the online community and occupational therapy. I study occupational therapy as I can bring to the table my personal experiences as well as professional experiences and this how blogging links into it even if this link isn’t visible yet. So, now that I’ve almost finished my first year, I can finally say that I know all the reason’s I study occupational therapy and why I’m more than willing to go back into the system!

As previously mentioned, I don’t quite know how and if this idea will work but what I do know is that I am very determined to get my idea off the ground!

Thank you for reading, I did warn you that it might be long!