Posted on Wednesday November 5 2014 by RIG Healthcare
I am passionate about occupational therapy and have been a therapist for almost 30 years. I work clinically in charities, and non statutory services. In the last couple of weeks I have just developed 10 new placements for occupational therapy students in organisations that don't have OTs.
The staff who I have met, who work with looked after children, people with learning disabilities, and long term mental health problems, people who are homeless etc, have said to me, very nicely and with warmth,
' We have people with mental health problems here, do your students know anything about that?
' No one here has any need for rails or any of that kind of stuff, so I am not sure what they could do?'
' It would be great to have another pair of hands but we have been doing OT here for oh about 10 years...Well, no we have never had an actual OT.'
And so it went on..
All these people are passionate advocates of the people they work with, I explain patiently again and again, what Occupational Therapy is and what we do. I give examples relevant to their clients and they agree in the end to give it a go.
I didn't come into occupational therapy to be a marketing and sales person and I suspect neither did you, but if we are to secure a place in the future for our profession in the world of commissioning each one of us has to be able to clearly and succinctly sell our profession.
Occupational Therapy has been placed in the ten best jobs and I would agree with this 100%. We all love our jobs despite the little moans and groans we have, but who doesn't get that sinking feeling when an older relative, new neighbour, friend of the children asks, ' What exactly is occupational therapy?'
After a deep breath, do you go for the global definition of the whole profession? Or do you explain your personal perspective, well I work with x and do y? Do you say yes it's bit like.. physio/social work/ coaching etc. which it isn't but when you are in a hurry you may be tempted to leave it there and not expand. Do you list a whole A-Z of conditions and what we could offer each of them, or say no it's sounds like it but it's actually a different job from occupational health. We have all been there.
My answers are often guided by a) how much time we have, b) if they look genuinely interested in which case I start to explain and then if they start glazing over I cut it short c) if they have had personal experience, in which nine times out of ten turns out to not be a qualified OT and then I start on another diatribe d) I think they are interested as a career.
What would we do if we were a team on the apprentice (morals and ethics underpinning us of course). Would we keep the name? Would we develop a logo that we could all download and use to create a market brand that was recognisable? What would be the focus of our pitch? What would we sell and how would we sell it? The health 'market' is changing under our feet.
We constantly need to sell occupational therapy to the general public, to other health care professionals, to the NHS, charities and non statutory organisations. Let's explain to everyone why we have been ranked in the top 10 jobs. It's a great introduction to answer to the question, 'What is OT?' We can start with a smile and not a sigh.
Margaret Spencer MA Consultant Occupational Therapist & Senior Lecturer LinkedIn Profile
Note from the author:
My blogs are a culmination of over thirty years experience working in Occupational Therapy, including material from my books and conference presentations.
They answer the real queries and questions that 100's of undergraduate and post graduate students, qualified OT's and managers, that I have had the privilege to work with and supervise continue to asked me.