When things go wrong - The Importance of a Good Induction

As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I’ve been working as an OT Technical Instructor (TI) for a total of about 6 years – when I first started out, I was in my early twenties and I worked in the profession for 4 years or so, then I had an 8 year break to pursue another career . . . but came back into OT, alongside my other career 20 months ago. Until recently, I’d always had good experiences in my jobs and although I’ve been a locum in OT virtually from the outset, all of my colleagues have been helpful and supportive and an induction has always been arranged, sometimes including quite thorough training (particularly if I was working in a new area of OT).

However, I recently left a Social Services job (within an unnamed Adult Care service) due to the lack of support, induction, training and supervision I received – it was particularly pertinent in this case as I haven’t worked in many social services posts and the last time I was appointed in one was over 10 years ago . . . things were quite different back then as Occupational Therapy Technical Instructors didn’t get involved with assessing for major adaptations (I was required to do so in this post), so I not only needed a refresher on the skills I had used in the past (measuring up for grab rails etc) but I also needed full training to acquire the new skills I was required to use. All of this was discussed during my interview, as well as the need for a Risk Assessment to be done – I was 11 weeks pregnant when I started the job. Unfortunately, the Risk Assessment was never done, none of the training discussed at interview was provided, I didn’t receive a proper induction and I was never offered supervision and so after 6 weeks of trying to make it work, I had to leave. It was an extremely stressful experience for many reasons, all of which were quite unnecessary . . . but it has made me realise just how important a good induction is;

1) No two hospitals or services are the same; everywhere has its own systems of report writing, administration etc regardless of how uniform patient/client intervention and practices might be – without proper knowledge of these systems a new starter in an OT job will be held up trying to figure things out for themselves. This wastes time unnecessarily, which puts the new starter under additional pressure to keep up with their workload. It also wastes the service’s money, especially in the case of locum OT's who are being paid by the hour.

2) A lack of adequate induction can make the new starter feel isolated – if introductions to other team members aren’t made then it’s difficult to know who to turn to for help. The combined isolation and lack of knowledge can lower a new starter’s self-esteem and morale as they will be second-guessing their decisions and doubting their actions. In some cases, the frustrations induced by the situation could result in anger and this is never a good emotion to have circulating in a workplace.

3) The lack of knowledge and negative feelings caused by a bad induction and lack of support will undoubtedly put patients/clients at risk – not only is it unwise to assume a sufficient knowledge base for the area of OT concerned but the emotional consequences of feeling unsupported might affect even the most competent worker’s ability to make sound judgements and fulfil their role properly . . . plus patients will often pick up on the unhappy vibes and a huge benefit of therapeutic intervention, especially from lower band workers who are often able to spend larger chunks of time with patients/clients, is the ability to offer uplifting and motivational company.

4) A bad induction can also have wider reaching damaging effects on the service in question and even the profession as a whole as it often only takes one bad experience to raise a complaint by either the patient/client or indeed the worker them self. In addition, especially in the case of a lower band worker who might have been considering undertaking training to become a qualified practitioner, the profession could lose a much needed new Occupational Therapist to join the ranks.

I’m hoping that by sharing my personal experience, others might benefit from the insight I have gained and speak up for themselves if they ever feel that something is amiss in this regard. It is really important that we continue to nurture our profession and look after one another to make the rest of the world realise how important Occupational Therapy is without wasting time, resources and knowledge. I would also like to urge more senior OT practitioners who might be working in a highly pressurised service to be mindful of the above points and resist the temptation to neglect what might, on the surface, appear to be minor details.

 

Paula Seabright, Occupational Therapist Assistant

 

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