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Virtual leadership placement helps Student Occupational Therapist to qualify

In our latest blog Priya Chauhan shares her career journey from student at the University of Derby to newly qualified Occupational Therapist at Cygnet Sherwood House.

Initially when I received the news that my final placement as a student Occupational Therapist would be a virtual one, I was a little apprehensive and unsure what to expect.

I had thoroughly enjoyed my first and second placement at Leicester Royal Infirmary in Trauma and Orthopaedics and at Wellbeing Therapy Solutions; an independent practice specialising in mental health and wellbeing. Both of these placements had given me the opportunity to experience Occupational Therapy in two very contrasting settings. So, I was sceptical of how a virtual leadership-based placement would enable me to continue to develop my clinical skills as Occupational Therapist. I could not have been more wrong!

My virtual and leadership-based placement at Cygnet came about due to a national shortage of clinical placements as result of the global pandemic. There was a need for educational institutions and placement educators to think more critically about the different ways students could meet their practice requirements. Thankfully, Cygnet stood up to the challenge and offered me and two of my peers a 10-week virtual leadership-based placement working with the three Regional Directors of Occupational Therapy.

During this 10-week period I have undertaken two projects, an individual project, and a group one. My individual project centred on increasing research activity, use of social media and publications amongst Occupational Therapists at Cygnet. Whereas my group project focused on developing a training package for support workers to engage service users in purposeful and meaningful activities.

Both of these projects provided me the opportunity to learn about and engage in service development. I was able to utilise Occupational Therapy theory and skills to improve Occupational Therapists’ experience of engaging in evidence-based practice as well as improve the quality of care of service users through providing specialised training.

Under the supervision of my practice educator, I worked autonomously and independently or as part of a team to successfully lead and carry out project management. This was something I had never done before, and it challenged me to think critically about my knowledge and skills as a student Occupational Therapist and apply them to a leadership setting. It was through this experience I learnt about the value of transformational leadership as opposed to management and the importance of Occupational Therapists in leadership roles.

Each week was spent engaging in a variety of tasks such as project work, group meetings, supervision, reflective practice, weekly presentations and independent study. I learnt how to apply the Occupational Therapy process to project management. I was able to develop knowledge and skills in many different areas such as leadership, service development, project work as well as improve my communication, interpersonal, organisational and time management skills.

Due to this leadership placement, my professional confidence has grown considerably. I feel much more comfortable to articulate and defend my clinical decisions and present my ideas to others.

Cygnet and the University of Derby have given me the opportunity to work on each aspect of the Career Development Framework by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists e.g. Education, Clinical, Research and Leadership. I believe this will serve me well as I transition from student to qualified Occupational Therapist.

Moving forward, I have been lucky enough to secure a job as a qualified Occupational Therapist (awaiting HCPC registration) at Cygnet Sherwood House. I am incredibly happy to be part of the Cygnet team and look forward to carrying forward some of the project work I have completed as a student.

To learn more about Cygnet’s Occupational Therapy leadership placement, please contact: [email protected]

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