#OTalk Research Tuesday 5th April 2022 – Career Progression in Occupational Therapy: To PhD or Not to PhD?

This weeks #OTalk research, will be hosted by the two newest members of the OTalk research team; Beverley Turtle (@bevaturtle) and Samantha Tavender (@SamOTantha).  

Beverley is a post-doctoral researcher based at Ulster University. She is part of a team of occupational therapists working across Northern Ireland and Ireland on a randomized controlled trial examining the effectiveness of mirror therapy for the treatment of upper limb impairment following stroke. With a background in Psychology, Beverley graduated from Occupational Therapy in 2016, moving directly into a full time PhD, working part-time clinically as a band 5 occupational therapist alongside her role as a researcher.  

Samantha is a lecturer at the University of Huddersfield.  Before working as a lecturer Samantha has been working clinically as an Occupational Therapist for the last 10 years both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Samantha is at the very beginning stage of a part time PhD which is due to start September 2022. 

Beverley and Samantha are in contrasting stages of their careers, both in their research and clinical pathways. What they do have in common is that they have both chosen a PhD as an opportunity to develop their research skills and knowledge and to support them to progress along their chosen career pathways. 

Recognising the differences in their approaches to their chosen study patterns and timings within their careers has led Beverley and Samantha to reflect on the different approaches occupational therapists can take to develop their research skills, knowledge and ways of thinking to a level which is considered advanced (Royal College of Occupational Therapy 2021).  Their reflection has also considered if a PhD is the best or only way to progress research to this level within an occupational therapy career. What other ways could an individual progress their research skills, knowledge and ways of thinking to a level which is considered advanced without completing a formal doctoral qualification?

Join Samantha and Beverley as they reflect upon their individual journeys and join them with your own reflections and thoughts on developing as a researcher. 

Tonight’s chat questions:

  1. Let’s start by sharing our own stories and experiences. What opportunities have you taken to develop and advance your research skills and knowledge? Did you choose to PhD or not to PhD? 
  2. What influenced your decisions and the timing within your career?
  3. Do you think there is a ‘right time’ to start thinking about further researcher development or starting something like a PhD? 
  4. How can occupational therapists, at all levels of their careers, be supported to engage in further researcher development? Have you got any advice for others on how to best to engage in opportunities to develop and advance as a researcher, whether a PhD or alternative opportunities?
  5. What more can RCOT/Employers/universities do to support occupational therapists looking to progress research within their career?  
  6. What steps do you think you can take now to help you meet your research development goals? 


Royal College of Occupational Therapists (2021). Career Development Framework. London: RCOT. Available at: https://www.rcot.co.uk/publications/career-development-framework 


Host: Beverley Turtle (@bevaturtle) and Samantha Tavender (@SamOTantha).

Support on OTalk Account: Beverley Turtle (@bevaturtle) and Samantha Tavender (@SamOTantha).

Evidence your CPD. If you joined in this chat you can download the below transcript as evidence for your CPD, but remember the HCPC are interested in what you have learnt.  So why not complete one of our reflection logs to evidence your learning?

HCPC Standards for CPD.

  • Maintain a continuous, up-to-date and accurate record of their CPD activities.
  • Demonstrate that their CPD activities are a mixture of learning activities relevant to current or future practice.
  • Seek to ensure that their CPD has contributed to the quality of their practice and service delivery.
  • Seek to ensure that their CPD benefits the service user.
  • Upon request, present a written profile (which must be their own work and supported by evidence) explaining how they have met the Standards for CPD.

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