What are the benefits of locuming as an OT Technical Instructor/Assistant?

I’ve been working as an OT Technical Instructor (TI) for a total of about 5 years – when I started out, I was in my early twenties and I worked in the profession for 4 years or so, then I changed careers 8 years ago . . . but came back into OT again last year. For me, the benefits of locuming as a TI have been multiple:

1) I’ve been able to work across many areas of OT, including different aspects of mental health, learning disabilities, social services and a large range of the various specialisms within physical health – this experience has also been gained in a variety of settings, such as large teaching hospitals, small community hospitals, residential homes, specialist centres, forensic units, council offices and out in the community. A huge benefit of this is that I have a good idea of the areas of OT that I do and don’t enjoy and now that I’m considering embarking on the training to become a qualified OT, I think that puts me in a good position – I already know which placements I’d like to avoid and which ones I’d find interesting and perform well in. I’m also hoping that the knowledge I’ve gained would help me to understand the theoretical aspects of the degree – you’re privy to so much information from experienced OTs, Physios, Nurses, Doctors, Psychiatrists etc when working as a TI/Assistant in a mutli-disciplinary team!

2) I’ve been able to weigh up whether I’d like to become a qualified OT and whether I’d be any good at it! When I locumed in my twenties, I decided that OT wasn’t right for me – I’d suffered with depression when I younger and I found that I sometimes wasn’t strong enough to deal with upsetting cases. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to explore different areas of OT and discover that I wasn’t ready for a career in it before I embarked on the degree (I had a place but withdrew). When I came out of OT I trained to be a media Hair & Make-up Artist and had fun being creative and working on exciting projects . . . but it’s a fiercely competitive and bitchy industry, with long hours and job instability – the complete opposite of OT! Now that I’m in my late thirties and hoping to start a family, my priorities have changed – I’ve also toughened up a lot from working in the film and TV industry! So, locuming as a TI this time around has been a completely different experience for me – I really missed helping people and I’ve gotten so much satisfaction out of the work I’ve done over the past year . . . I feel like I’m making more valuable contributions to patients because of  the life experience I have behind me . . and being stronger in myself has made me a stronger arm of support to the teams I’ve worked with, as well as the patients. I think this point may help to answer some of the issues that Margaret Spencer raised in her blog on 2nd March 2015, asking ‘What are the qualities of a real OT’ . . . she talked about the problems of people who struggle in the profession (including those who get struck off) for reasons such as being talked into OT by their family and not having any real passion for it, not knowing what they were getting into before they trained and realising that they’d be happier doing something else, not having the necessary qualities to be an effective OT etc. I certainly would’ve fallen into two of these categories had I not locumed and just gone straight into the degree! So, I believe that working as a TI or Assistant in a variety of therapeutic areas (like a Level 5 Rotation) should be COMPULSORY before allowing candidates to undertake professional training. Of course, this could be done within a permanent position but locuming has clear advantages over this . . .

3) I’ve been able to earn fantastic money whilst gaining insight into the profession and deciding whether it’s something I want to do long term – locum rates are much better than permanent rates . . . and if you work with a good agency like RIG, you’ll receive valuable training along the way too J This has got to be a much better way to save for university life than working in a low paid job that has nothing to do with OT!

4) I’ve enjoyed flexible work, both in terms the hours I do and how long I stay in one job – this has been great for fitting around travel plans, ill health within my family and occasions where I haven’t enjoyed the area of OT I’ve been working in.

That’s just part of my story, which I hope has been helpful but I have lots more to tell about the finer details of working as an OT TI . . . I look forward to sharing some of this with you next time.

Paula Seabright


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