#OTalk 14 July 2020 – Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on occupational therapy practice.

This weeks #OTalk is being hosted by Katy Williams (@Katy_WilliamsOT) and Paul Wilkinson (@PaulWilkinson94) both of whom are part of the Year One: Thriving Not Surviving project team. Katy is newly qualified, currently working at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital on a rotational post. Paul is also newly qualified, working at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on a rotational post. We are both extremely interested in exploring the changes to practice which have occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic and their impact upon the profession moving forward. 

Unprecedented, unchartered, the new normal, phrases that have shot into common parlance over the last few months, along with key worker, frontline and hero. Behind every use of these words lies a personal story. Triumph in the face of adversity, tragedy, a story of renewal and even, at times, moments of laughter. Personal accounts of living and working through a unique moment in global history. A time we will undoubtedly start to mark as pre and post COVID. 

The media has been full of stories of the heroism of people working on the front line. The country has come together to support our courage, bravery and self-sacrifice. However, this generic narrative is challenged by many of the personal stories that are starting to emerge from those working in health and social care. 

Some occupational therapists have indeed experienced working ‘on the front line’ in life and death situations either in their role as occupational therapists or in roles to which they have been deployed.  Across the profession as a whole however, the experiences are more varied. 

None of us could have envisioned that one of the challenges of our career paths would be playing a role in a worldwide pandemic. Covid-19 has influenced services, procedures and the way we practice. Some of us have been continuing in our usual roles experiencing a reduced case load whilst others have started new jobs or rotated into new specialties. Those in managerial positions have been challenged by a level of logistics they may never have faced before and those leading our profession have been required to lead through completely uncharted territory. The majority of us have been required to adjust considerably our mode of practice. 

Whilst responding to the daily situation we continue to find ourselves in, it is easy to lose sight of the path travelled on a personal level. Due to the service focused values of health professionals the focus tends to be outwards with less attention being paid to self-care and personal wellbeing. Add to this the backdrop of responding to the impact of the pandemic on home life and taking time to reflect, make sense, heal and recharge, for many, has been at a premium.

We started working on the Year 1 Thriving Not Surviving project at the start of the pandemic. Many of our plans have had to be adapted but over the last three months but we have found support in sharing our COVID-19 experiences. It’s been interesting to learn how occupational therapists working in different environments and different parts of the country are responding to the pandemic. 

This led us to think about extending the conversation into an OTalk, which is what we hope to achieve in this talk. A chance for a community to come together and share this experience. The questions we will be exploring are:

  1. How has Covid-19 impacted on your role & the way you practice? 

  1. What have been your biggest challenges during Covid-19?

  1. What have you done to promote/manage your own wellbeing during Covid-19?

  1. What are the important things have you learnt about yourself and the way you practice during the COVID-19 pandemic?

  1. What changes to practice have occurred that you hope will remain? 

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