#OTalk 5th May – Professional identity in occupational therapy

Huge thanks to Professor Annie Turner @eann_turner for agreeing to host an #OTalk on Professional Identity. I was lucky enough to hear her speak on the topic in her Casson lecture at the COT conference a couple of years ago so I’m looking forward to revisiting this.   We know that occupational therapy covers the whole spectrum of human occupation because our professional practice is based around the concept of the reasoned use of occupation to impact on health and well being. This is what’s unique about occupational therapy. We also know that focusing practice on occupations that are meaningful to people provides the best motivation. Our uniqueness therefore lies in the way we think.   However when this concept gets translated into our professional practice we find that we have very few (if any?) unique practical skills that define what we do as occupational therapists. Our skills are the public face of our practice. They are what people see us doing and what we are defined by. However because human activity is infinitely wide ranging the skills and activities we perform can give out confusing messages about who we are. They can seem common place and superficial and so, mistakenly, it can be felt that anyone could do what we do. This can cause issues with our identity, both within the profession and to those who observe our practice.   Literature looking at OTs’ professional identity comes from a range of countries. It tells us that the problem is caused by a range of issues including the fact that OTs give out unclear and inconsistent messages about who they are and that they have difficulty providing an occupation based rationale for what they do. Literature also shows that the dominance of medical model thinking in many of the places where OTs work can make us reluctant to use the word ‘occupation’ in conversations, reports etc for fear of being misunderstood, yet OTs are often happy using complex medical terminology.   Some of the consequences of this situation are shown to impact on how clearly funders understand what they are buying and that OTs can feel undervalued and can believe that the technical skills used by other professions hold more status than our own practice.   In workshops and talks I’ve recently given to OTs about our professional identity I’ve found that we still seem to have issues with who we are. Not only that, it seems that other people still have trouble understanding what occupational therapy is all about. The big question therefore is what we do about this situation where it exists? How do we ensure that our unique thinking is translated into a visibly unique and valued ‘doing’?   Questions to consider:

  1. How are your skills and your thinking valued in your workplace?
  1. How do you explain the complexity of thinking that underpins the apparently everyday activities in your practice?
  1. If occupational therapy continues to be misunderstood what should we do about it?

Further reading (all available through the COT website):   * Kinn LG and Aas RW (2009) Occupational therapists’ perception of their practice: A phenomenological study Australian Occupational Therapy Journal 56, 112–121 * Clouston TJ and Whitcombe SW ( 2008). The Professionalisation of Occupational Therapy: a Continuing Challenge, British Journal of Occupational Therapy 71(8) 314-320 * Gillen, G. (2013). A fork in the road: An occupational hazard? (Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lecture). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 641–652

Please find a link to the chat transcript here – and a PDF copy.


#OTalk 28th April 2015 – Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week #MSAwarenessWeek

In February I joined a specialist Multiple Sclerosis service so I thought I’d take the opportunity that it was #MSAwarenessWeek to take part in a CPD activity to develop in my new role, and to learn from and share with all of you too.

The MS Society and the MS Trust are organisations that provide excellent support and information for people with MS and health professionals so do take the time to check out their websites after the chat.

Via the wonders of social media I’ve also found a support community for people with MS – MS Shift.

I thought it is probably worth starting with the basics – and what is MS?

MS is a neurological condition where the myelin coating around nerve fibres in the Central Nervous System are damaged (via an auto immune response) leading to a range of symptoms, due to the fact that signals are no longer able to transmit in as smooth or quick a way as they would usually.

There are three different types of MS – Relapsing Remitting, Secondary Progressive and Primary Progressive. Currently only Relapsing Remitting MS has effective Disease Modifying Therapy treatment in the form of injections or tablets that aim to reduce the risk of relapses.

Different types of MS – MS Trust (3 mins)

There is a whole range of signs and symptoms – and it is these that vary between individuals depending on where the nerve damage occurs.

Here’s a link to a list of symptoms and to a video of six different people sharing how MS affects them.

Range of Symptoms (5 mins)

Fatigue appears to be one of the most common and debilitating symptoms of MS. I’m really lucky to work with a team who have developed an effective evidence based group intervention and I’m looking forward to being involved in delivery of this very soon.

FACETS – Fatigue: Applying Cognitive behavioural and Energy effectiveness Techniques to lifeStyle
Alison Nock and Vicky Slingsby (MS OTs) present – Understanding fatigue and an introduction to the FACETS programme (1 hr 23)

You can find out more here –  and read the journal article here.

Finally here’s a video where two good friends, Anne and Jean, who both have MS, talk about how Anne’s blog, Life wi the Broons has inspired them both to keep trying new things. She mentions my passion of writing so I had to sneak this one in.


Points for discussion

  • After reviewing the blog, or based on personal/professional experience what is your understanding of Multiple Sclerosis?
  • What skills do Occupational Therapists have that support managing a condition that presents differently in everyone?
  • MS is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20 – 40 (with symptoms often occurring for a while before diagnosis) – what roles and occupations can therefore typically be affected?
  • Fatigue is one of the prevalent symptoms of MS – what strategies can be employed to help manage it?
  • As Occupational Therapists we use occupation as ends and means – there may be some challenges to people participating in valued occupations so how can we support people to continue participation and to find new, valued occupations?

#OTalk – 21st April 2015 – Activities are everyone’s business

“Activities are everyone’s business”

I am honoured to be able to facilitate the #OTalk this Tuesday evening on the topic of activity and the need for everybody to engage in the delivery of activity to the people we work with.

Occupational Therapists have always known and valued the importance of activity. No matter what the setting, activity has always remained at the foundations of the services we provide. It is a hot topic in every healthcare environment I have experienced and each with varying attitudes towards the use of activity.

In recent years, more guidance is indicating the importance of meaningful activity in the care of people who use services. In February 2015, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (2015, web link) issued a briefing on Older Persons services and highlighted the importance of occupational therapy-enabled activity. British College of Occupational Therapists provided guidance to care homes on the provision of meaningful activity with older people.  Another example comes from the Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) targets, which guide services to provide 25 hours of meaningful activity.

Activity is now everyone’s business. The opinions that Occupational Therapists are only there to provide ‘something to do’ is changing, but there is still work to be done. In my own role, I spend a portion of my working week educating staff who are engaging the individual to ensure they understand and promote activity as part of recovery. It is an area I have found myself becoming more intrigued by and the #OTalk will help explore lots of different strands of this subject. The aim of this #OTalk is to discuss this and ask ourselves some questions to stimulate debate;

1)      How are we, as a profession responding to recent guidance which indicates the increased importance on activity provision?

2)      Have you got any good examples of practice where OTs have been able to engage a wider staff team and people who use services in meaningful activities?

3)      What are the biggest challenges you face in practice when using meaningful activity as an intervention?

John Pope @johnpope87


NICE (2015) Older people in care homes.   Web link: http://www.nice.org.uk/advice/LGB25

British Association of Occupational Therapists (2015) “Lack of meaningful activity in care homes can signal wider neglect” (Web site: https://www.cot.co.uk/news/lack-meaningful-activity-care-homes-can-signal-wider-neglect)

Reeve. M “25 hours of structured activity” http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/25%20Hours%20of%20Activity.pdf

Thanks to John again for hosting – here’s the transcript link and PDF.

Guest Post – Managing your conference experience – COT2015


Have you heard the question about how to eat an elephant? The answer is ….one bite at a time!  Whilst this saying presents a farfetched notion of eating an elephant, as a metaphor it can translate really well to how delegates, particularly first timers, may feel when they attend the College’s Annual Conference.  There’s so much going on and such a variety of learning opportunities available that it can seem overwhelming; and if you don’t pace yourself, you can feel as if your brain is almost exploding with the introduction of new ideas. The conference programme has ten different sessions running at the same time. The sessions may be abstract based; a keynote address by an invited speaker; an exhibitor workshop; or a college hosted session focussing on key issues facing the occupational therapy profession.  At this year’s conference there are also two specific programmes of sessions:  a Specialist Section-Work annual conference and a social care stream.  In addition delegates can visit the trade exhibition and view over 100 posters that are on display.

However, like most things in life, having a successful conference experience is all in the preparation. Planning your time before you attend can make you feel that you are in control and enable you to get the most from conference.  Ask yourself what you want to gain most from attending conference, perhaps refer to your performance appraisal as your objectives may help to identify which sessions are most appropriate, also think about the issues your organisation is facing.  You will find that the conference programme has themes identified and learning outcomes for each session.  Use these to inform your session choices.

If you are going to conference with a colleague, then you have the opportunity to pool your learning and experiences. Go to different sessions and then meet and share what you have gained from the sessions.

There are a number of different session formats, so make sure you are aware of how the session will be delivered.  If the session is interactive, such as a workshop or a seminar, be prepared with issues you may want raise or questions that can be discussed and addressed in an open forum.  Please remember some of formats have a maximum number of delegates who can attend. If you wish to attend these sessions make sure you pre-register, and do this early to avoid disappointment.

The exhibition is a really useful source of product and service information, where you can speak directly to suppliers about what is available to help your service users.

Don’t limit your conference experience to sessions, there are  excellent opportunities to increase your professional networks, so speak to other delegates and if you know there is a delegate you have always wanted to meet, book an appointment using the conference app.

The conference app is a perfect tool to help you get the most of your time at conference. You can create your personal conference timetable, email other delegates and arrange to meet them, instantly access social media messages including Facebook and Twitter. You will also be kept informed about any last minute changes to the programme whilst you are onsite.  This year’s app will be available to download from 15 June 2015.  Visit the conference website for more information:  http://cotannualconference.org.uk/2014-conference-app.

Social media can truly enhance your time at conference, so when you tweet use the hashtag #COT2015, so others can follow your conversation; and visit the events page of the BAOT/COT Facebook http://www.facebook.com/baotcot. Recording your lightbulb moments on social media will help you with gathering CPD evidence for your portfolio.

There are lots of people who will help you get the most of your conference time and will talk through elements of the programme if you need further clarification. So if you do need further information approach College staff, members of the conference organising committee (CPC); Council members, conference steward and the conference organisers.  (You will recognise them as their role will be printed on their badge). They will be delighted to help you.

Hopefully this blog will have given you a brief introduction to getting the most from conference. Book-mark the conference website and regularly visit it for the latest information. I look forward to seeing you at conference in June and feel sure you will have a wonderful time with many lasting memories to inform your future practice.

Vandita Chisholm, College of Occupational Therapists.


#OTalk 14th April is a Welcome Kelly #OTeaParty

We are very happy to announce that after an excellent application and a most gruelling interview (that included questions about being kidnapped by snowmen!!) Kelly Murray has been sorted into the role as #OTalk Student Digital Leader Intern. The hat ummed and ahhed between Gryffindor and OTalk and Kelly has decided to go with a dual house identity.

Here is Kelly’s bio:
I’m excited to be able to introduce myself to you all. I’m Kelly Murray (@OTontheTracks), and I’m the #OTalk Student Digital Leader Intern. I’m currently in my first year of the MSc (Pre-Reg) Occupational Therapy at the University of Cumbria, and I’m enjoying the varied programme and placements I have had encountered so far. I am passionate about understanding what makes occupations meaningful to each individual and love to hear their life story along the way. I am also really enthusiastic about social media so you can imagine how thrilled I am to be starting this opportunity with #OTalk.

When I’m not tweeting or studying I enjoy socialising especially if it involves tea and cake; and can also often be found playing board games whilst trying to shield my over competitiveness from other players. I look forward to getting involved with all things OT and #OTalk over the next few months with you all.

Find me on Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/OTontheTracks

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellymurray88

Blog: http://otonthetracks.blogspot.co.uk

And to welcome her into the fold next Tuesday we will be having an #OTeaParty – an informal chat where we can get to know each other a little better, come up with some more ideas for future chats and generally have fun.

So please show Kelly some OT Love on twitter and welcome her to the crew.

Transcript of the chat – there were lots of ideas for future chats including one around Fresher’s week to welcome new OTs to the profession – don’t forget to contact us to arrange your hosting experience.