Top 10 Tips; How to be a Good OT Technical Instructor/Assistant


This is not an exhaustive list but it’s what I’ve learned from my own personal experience as am OT Technical Instructor.

Next time, I’ll be sharing my top tips for how to get the most out of your experience working in a supportive role.


1) Get to know your team! I can’t stress enough how invaluable this is, especially as a locum OT TI/Assistant – although it’s important to have quiet time at work to recharge and clear your head (see tip 7) it’s worth making the effort to attend social lunches etc to get to know the personalities of your colleagues and any personal stresses they might be going through. By doing this, you’ll find people are more willing to help you, the help offered will be better and you will become a better asset to the team because you’ll get to know and understand everyone’s individual ways of going about things – the more useful you are, the more responsibility you’ll be given and the more you’ll learn.


2) Listen ACTIVELY to your team – what do they REALLY want from you? If you don’t fully understand the requirements of a task, how can you expect to fulfil them? This is why tip 1 is so important – it really helps with being able to understand your colleagues properly.


3) Listen ACTIVELY to your patients/clients/service users – don’t just arrive at a session with a blinkered ambition to complete the task set for you. There have been many occasions where I’ve learnt far more useful information about a patient from the chit-chat I’ve exchanged with them before, during or after a session than I have from the session itself – I always feed this back to occupational therapists or other members of the MDT and quite often, the information gained has then affected further intervention. Remember, as the OT TI/Assistant you will probably spend more time with the patients you are given than the occupational therapists are able to – be their second set of eyes and ears!


4) Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Sometimes, especially in a busy department and if you’re a competent OT TI/Assistant, the therapists you work with might be in a rush or assume that you understand the task they have set you and fail to explain it fully enough. NEVER walk away without feeling sure about what you need to do – remember that patient/client safety and wellbeing is always paramount! No question is a stupid question and your teammates will ALWAYS be glad that you asked.


5) Make use of the resources available to you and find out as much about the profession and its clinical practices as possible – this will help you to perform your job better, facilitate your decision of whether to get qualified or not (if that’s something you’re considering) and if you do decide to undertake the training, having as much knowledge behind you as possible will assist your studies.


6) Give yourself a break – you’re not expected to know everything! Sometimes, in a very busy hospital or other service you might be asked questions from other professionals (nurses, social workers, doctors etc) that you feel unable to answer – don’t feel bad about this, you’re not a qualified occupational therapist after all! People will tend to grab whoever is nearest when they have an urgent question but don’t feel tempted to hazard a guess – simply say that you don’t know but offer to go and find out from one of your teammates.


7) Take some quiet time in the day and make sure you get your breaks! People sometimes forget that occupational therapy TIs/Assistants can get stressed too – although you may not be performing tasks at such a high level as the qualified occupational therapists on your team, it’s all relative and what you’re doing will at times feel taxing given your experience and knowledge base . . . you will probably be rushing around a lot more than most of your team too!


8) Don’t be afraid to say NO to tasks! If you feel out of your depth about ANYTHING you are asked to do then speak up – your colleagues will thank for it as it’s far better for them to spend a little longer explaining something to you or delegating the task to someone else than having to deal with the consequences of a situation where you couldn’t cope.


9) Don’t be shy to make suggestions. Just because you aren’t a qualified occupational therapist doesn’t mean that you can’t spot ways to make improvements that nobody else has – remember that you are a fresh pair of eyes and you’re interacting with patients/service users etc in a different way to other members of the team.


10) Be proactive! Don’t just wait to be given work to do – if you find that you’ve finished your workload with time to spare ask if anybody needs help with anything . . . perhaps some photocopying or filing needs to be done? Maybe someone could do with an extra set of hands for a patient session? Even offering to make a cup of tea can be a godsend for a busy team member! You’ll be surprised at how making yourself useful in little ways will make a big difference to the relationship you enjoy with your team and how much better your whole working experience will be.


Paula Seabright, Occupational Therapist Assistant


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