Why I decided to present at The OT Show

As many readers will know, The OT Show was held on the 26th and 27th of November 2014 at the Birmingham NEC and is now in its second year.  Judging from the increase in numbers attending and interest generated, this event is definitely going from strength to strength.  This two-day event is a free to attend event for OTs and final year students.

Why did I agree to present and want to attend?

When I was asked to speak at this event, I was delighted to accept the invitation for a number of reasons.

Professionally, as one of a very small number of therapists working in the HIV field I always welcome the opportunity to share information regarding HIV, the changing context and management of the disease, and to highlight the role for OT and rehabilitation.  I hoped my session title, ‘Stigma, Strategies, Survival: Living not Dying with HIV’ would encourage therapists and student to adjust any perception they may have of HIV as a ‘terminal’ condition, but recognise that living longer term with a more chronic illness, particularly one with a ‘episodic’ disability pattern can bring its own demands and challenges.

On a personal level I am interested in practicing and developing skills in a range of presentation settings, and this was a type of event I had not been part of in the past.

Additionally, I had heard positive feedback from colleagues who’d attended The OT Show when first held in 2013, regarding the quality of the speakers and range of exhibitors.

I also saw from the range and quality of speakers in the programme this year that I would gain a great deal from any sessions I was able to attend.

Having never previously attended The OT Show what did I gain from doing so?

Preparing for my session enabled me to reflect on an aspect within the broad range of complex and diverse information in the HIV-related literature and upon my extensive clinical experience in the area.  I was conscious that the content needed to be relevant to OTs in a variety of settings, and to be thought-provoking.  It was also a short session, so I needed to be succinct as well as informative!

Delivering my session gave me an opportunity to maintain and develop my presentation skills, but I was also very intrigued to learn what the level of interest would be in the audience, and what questions might be raised.

Prior to the event I had made contact with other OTs who I knew would be at the event.  I knew there would be a number of people I hadn’t necessarily met in person but ‘knew’ via social media, as well as colleagues I’d not met for many years.  For example, a former classmate from my post-graduate OT training was also presenting and a former classmate from my doctoral studies was also attending.  Colleagues / contacts came from a range of settings – including education, private consultancy, acute and community based clinical practice.

Linking with people ahead of attending maximised my networking opportunities whilst there.   Unsurprisingly, I found that once at the venue, other connections were made through the friends and colleagues I was already in touch with.

So I found it a great opportunity to develop my professional network. 

What feedback / impression did I get regarding my session?

I was pleased with the attendance at my session, as I felt this indicated a level of interest in the area, and a desire to learn more.  I was aware that a number of people in the audience had previous direct clinical experience with people living with HIV, but that the vast majority did not.  I was therefore especially careful not to use HIV-specific jargon and to explain any acronyms I used.  It was important to me to present working with people living with HIV as a role not solely for those therapists with disease-specific posts, but something that all health and social care professionals need some knowledge regarding.

Queries raised at the end of my session indicated a level of clinical concern existed in some services regarding potential blood-borne exposure risk during therapy assessment and intervention.  I was able to share information regarding the use of Universal Precautions, and to explore whether or not there may be additional risk factors aside from HIV-status that could be addressed. 

I had fewer questions at the conclusion of my session than I had hoped for, and suggest the following possible reasons.

With a busy programme of many appealing sessions it may be have been that delegates didn’t feel they could remain behind to ask questions.

They may have been reluctant to raise queries in this forum / setting about an area perhaps unfamiliar to them (possibly concerned about perceived lack of knowledge).

It is possible that a proportion of the audience were final year students and as such, they had limited clinical experience from which to draw.

It is also possible that experienced therapists may not have seen working with a person living with HIV as presenting any greater challenge that other health conditions, and thus attended for interest, rather than to address or explore any clinical challenges.

Would I recommend attendance to others?

Although attending as a presenter as well as a delegate meant I had a slightly different experience than if attending solely as a delegate, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend both presenting at, and attending this event. 

This is a relatively new event, which has already generated a lot of professional / clinical interest, attracted high attendance, and some very high-profile, world-class speakers.  It is thus a great CPD opportunity either as a presenter or delegate.

My opinion is that the variety of sessions is wide enough to offer something to OTs working in a range of specialities.  The exhibitors and equipment stands and demonstrations are perhaps of most relevance to therapists working within Social Services settings or those where assessment for and prescription of equipment is a core part of their role.  However, up-to-date knowledge of what is out there in the marketplace is of course also beneficial to therapists in health-based and rehabilitation services, as well as to Independent practitioners.

For me, the programme of speakers offered the chance to hear a range of presentations not directly in my clinical speciality / area of interest, but which were of value to me in providing a wider perspective and over-view of the health and social care climate.  For example, attending a key-note session regarding dementia, offered me the opportunity to reflect on similarities and differences between the issues and experience reported in that session and my own clinical area of interest HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND).

The opportunity to attend a free event of this quality certainly doesn’t arise every day. 

On the basis of my experience I would recommend you take advantage of the chance if you can.

  • Did you attend the event? What were your experiences of the day?

Camilla Hawkins, Specialist HIV & HAND OT. LinkedInTwitter

 

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