Saturday, 10 August 2013

Students, thinking of attending COT Conference next year? SHOUT share their experiences

SHOUT with SHU lecturers & poster presenters  Julie Walters and Shirley Masterson 

Our aim at SHOUT, along with promoting occupational therapy, is to help support continuous professional development, both for our members and for those who attend our monthly Wednesday night talks. The range of health and social care topics covered at our events by clinicians and academics, the certificates we hand out to attendees and the thoughts we share at Wednesday Wind Down all aim to promote learning, reflection and provide evidence for CPD files. 

So it was only natural when a few of our members attended the COT Conference 2013 in Glasgow in June that they would reflect on their experiences and think about how themes encountered at conference related to study and future professional lives. 

And their advice to students thinking of going next year? 
"Go for it! It might feel like a long way to travel, at the end of a busy academic year when all you can think about is summer holidays, but the wide range of talks, presentations and people you meet make it more than worth it. And of course, there are the freebies! Who doesn't want a travel frisbee, a bendy ruler and a years' supply of pens?!"

SHOUT with Bournemouth lecturer and poster presenter Kirsty Stanley @Kirstyes

Flying the green flag of OT

Emma Wilsher, Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate and SHOUT member.

As a second year student coming to an OT annual COT conference for the first time, with my fellow SHOUT team members Julia-Helen Collins and Gill Smith who had been once before, I was overjoyed by the amount of OTs who came far and wide to celebrate, learn, share their knowledge and advocate for what they believe in. The green flags shone high and bright, as OTs came to be one and share their passion and love. The community vibe that was amongst us reminded me why I was becoming an OT and why I wanted to be part of the OT family. A sense of belonging was instilled in me and my passion to work in mental health was reinforced by the opening speech of Michael Iwama, who opened the COT conference on a high as I watched all OTs applaud his views on public health and saw how we were all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Sue Parkinson gave a magnificent talk on ‘beyond the model of human occupation screening tool’ and how the tool enables an OT to connect with the service user and make it more meaningful and client centred towards them.  She talked about the meaning and purpose of balanced lifestyle and environment and how this is crucial to enable a therapeutic process. I really felt this was beneficial to my area of interest and helped me to understand more about the model and its screening tool, enabling me to take away knowledge that I will be able to one day apply as a qualified OT.
The academia and copious amounts of assignments during the second year - all with hand-in dates around the same time – had been a test of my desire to fly the green OT flag. Trying to balance home life and university life as a single parent is difficult – spinning plates springs to mind. It’s a challenge for all future OTs to enforce what we are taught in lectures, seminars and workshops about maintaining a ‘balanced lifestyle’ and instilling meaningful activities into our own lives. Sue Parkinson emphasised this in her talk  - taking care of body and mind are key themes that contribute to a person’s sense of competence and pleasure, while leisure activities contribute to physical, social, emotional and cognitive health.

Going to conference and listening to many talks which all had a part in inspiring me, gave me great faith.  Listening to students who were talking about their findings from their dissertation papers and the results they had concluded allowed me to reflect on my second year and going forward into my final year of university. Reflection is key in my development, enabling me to see why I am doing this course and what I want to achieve and where I want to be in the coming years. Next year I want to stand where those students stood disclosing my findings and results from my dissertation, while flying my green flag high as a qualified OT.

I would like to shout out to all future OT students and those who doubt their abilities or the course - don’t lose the green flag – go to conference and let all there inspire you, speak to the stall holders who have a wealth of knowledge and to the many of people who are there and will one day be your OT family. This should relight the enthusiasm and bring back the reasons why you want to become a high flying OT.

With our poster

Three days of doing, being and becoming: a student’s journey along the "river of OT" at Conference 2013

Gill Smith, Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate and SHOUT member

Having just completed an Occupational Science elective at university, I may have simply been more attuned to Wilcock’s (1999) “Reflections on Doing, Being and Becoming”, but in many of the lectures or presentations I attended at the COT Conference 2013 I encountered this theme.

Conference was very much an opportunity for “doing”. With my fellow SHOUT team members Julia-Helen Collins and Emma Wilsher, I enjoyed the opportunity to exhibit a poster about our BAOT student group, as well as experience some of the challenges of later life by testing out an “age suit” in the exhibitor hall; great fun but also very thought provoking.

Just “being” in the company of so many occupational therapists from diverse areas of practice and around the country was good for the soul and encouraged reflection on my personal development and aspirations. But for me, more than anything else, conference was my “becoming”.

Before conference I pleased to see the end of a busy second year of seemingly endless essays and thankful for the summer break but now, after COT 2013, I am energised and ready for the rest of my student journey! Attending conference last year as an enthusiastic first year student, I was a little overwhelmed and eager to explore the community of OT. My journey, from student to practitioner, had begun as I jumped into the river of occupational therapy. This year, the current of conference has swept me further along my path, emersing me, as I ebb ever closer to employment and decisions about which way my career will flow. 

It is an exciting as well as challenging time to be becoming an occupational therapist with the many changes to the NHS and emerging areas of practice. Michael Iwama’s opening message to bring occupational therapy into the “river of public health” emphasised this. In my studies, it is the positive role of OT in preventing ill health and enabling people to maintain occupations, roles and identities through health promotion that has excited me most. Iwama’s call to take our practice into our own neighbourhoods spoke powerfully to me – I know now that this is where I want to be, working to make a difference to individuals’ lives within communities.

As an OT-in-training, attending conference is a fantastic way to become more professionally-minded. The networking opportunities with clinicians who may one day employ you, and the chances to talk to theorists whose books you have read, quoted in essays and committed to memory, is exhilarating. Much like practice placements, conference offers a tantalising glimpse of the working world of occupational therapy - it is so near and yet at times feels so far from reach as another year of study beckons in September. But there is still so much to learn and experience at university as I stream towards graduation, and hearing other students give excellent presentations was the motivation I needed to take the plunge, attempt to submit my own abstract to conference and hopefully become a presenter next year.

And it is this “becoming” that leads to “belonging”. Elaine Hunter spoke of her honour at being part of “Team Casson” through her delivery of the Elisabeth Casson Memorial Lecture. In a smaller way, I have enjoyed being part of “Team Conference”, a wide community of amazing people who are inspiring me to become one of them and, ultimately, find my place within OT. What a privilege it is to know that this is my future; that I may soon be able to call myself an occupational therapist and belong to this profession.

With Michael Iwama

Watch out for Julia-Helen Collins' reflection and advice coming soon....  

Suiting-up in the exhibitor hall...
Although we had a giggle trying on exhibitor Hewi's "age suit", commissioned by them and designed by a grad student to give an idea of what older age might feel like, it was also a very useful and emotive learning tool. The suit enabled us to gain an appreciation of the difficulties older people may face negotiating day-to-day occupations with impairments in their movement, vision or hearing. It was an uncomfortable, tiring and somewhat isolating experience and we felt quite emotional wearing it at times. Just walking and trying to position ourselves comfortably in Careflex's specialist chair was a challenge.

Tea and talks
Downtime between presentations was a great opportunity to grab a cup of tea or coffee and chat with conference friends old and new. It was great to put screen names from the online Twitter community to faces including the lovely @Helen_OTUK, @Kirstyes, @CharOTReilly and @Symbolic_Life. Cumbria University Masters student Michelle Perryman (@Symbolic_Life) has set up a fantastic project at her university to support OT students emerging into practice, find out more here: @Emerging2OT

It was wonderful to see both former and current Sheffield Hallam students deliver presentations or discuss their posters:

Becky Williams, a former Sheffield Hallam student, delivered a poster presentation about her experiences in US trauma centers as a result of the Nottingham Roosevelt Scholarship. Becky's drive, passion and warmth is inspirational, so its no surprise she was named an NHS Emerging Leader for 2013. We're hoping Becky will be able to speak at SHOUT this coming academic year! You can find her on twitter @_beckyOT and read her blog here:

We enjoyed watching SHU graduate Fiona Roberston talking on boxing as occupation, and saw fantastic posters on role-emerging placements by SHU Masters students Hayley Pedley Clues, Charlotte Ann Wise, Suzy Booth and Raedin O'Sullivan. 

We were also really impressed with Arrows Connect, two Scottish graduates who have set up their own company producing easy-to-use CPD software. Check out their website here:

Thank you 
We would like to say a really big THANK YOU to our local BAOT regional group, Trent Region, for generously aiding us with our conference tickets - thank you for your support to students, it is so appreciated.

That's all for now, but we'll be back in September with our new line-up of speakers and events for the next academic year. See you soon!