As I have done my best to research what is available for new graduate OT’s with regards to peer support I have discovered that there are no peer support groups accessible online specifically targeted at new graduate OT’s. I have decided to formulate a group on Facebook that I am able to develop into a webpage with a specific forum so it can be accessed without having an invitation through Facebook. The development of this webpage inclusive of a forum will occur when there are enough members in the Facebook group. Ideally, the Facebook group would need to have interest from a number of OT new graduates all over New Zealand for the online forum to be successful. Here I have weighed up some Pros and Cons of the use of Facebook professionally: Here is the link to the Facebook page I have developed: Occupational Therapy New Zealand (New Graduate Peer Support) feel free to request to be added to this page! If you think that there is potential for the growth of an online peer support group for occupational therapy new graduates, comment on my blog and request to join the OTNZ new graduate peer support group I have made on Facebook.
You have acquired a job and you have left all your friends to make it in the big world as a new graduate occupational therapist. Your supervisor is great and you have a very dynamic professional relationship, she/he understands your learning needs and has a foundation of knowledge to supervise your ongoing professional development. What next?
There are many different ways to start your own peer support group. Facebook is a great way to link up with people from all over New Zealand and the rest of the world who are practicing in the same profession as you.
Twitter is useful for finding people who have similar interests to you. If you use hashtags then it is likely other therapists will find your twitter account or even just a blog like this.
Here’s one: https://twitter.com/todayinot
and another: http://otpotential.com
Joining the occupational therapy board of New Zealand provides you with points of contact whereby you can have access to article journals and information within special interest groups at otnz.co.nz
If anyone else has any websites, blogs, forums or specific social media platforms where they receive great peer support let me know and I will add it to my list.
REMEMBER: it is all very well receiving support informally but remember the ethical requirements of your setting, CONFIDENTIALITY IS KEY. Stick to discussions that don’t involve actual names or scenarios!
The Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand (OTBNZ) describe supervision as
“Structured intentional relationship within which a practitioner reflects critically on her/his work, and receives feedback and guidance from a supervisor, in order to deliver the best possible service to consumers. Professional supervision may incorporate any aspect of a professional role e.g., clinical, managerial, or cultural, and be one to one, one to group, or take the form of peer review.” – OTBNZ, 2015
In this table exerted from a Chapter in Clinical Supervision in Aotearoa/ New Zealand A Health Perspective (pp. 27) it illustrates the formalities of supervision:
Supervision is necessary for a new graduate OT’s as we are committed to developing patients/clients we must be committed to developing ourselves. Supervision provides confidentiality, a structured form of achieving learning goals, continual monitoring of the meeting of competencies and one on one sessions that focuses on OT as a profession and the provision of optimum service to clients. Supervision demonstrates the OT’s ability to commit to their profession (Davys, 2007)
Here is the Te Pou website for more information on supervision: http://www.tepou.co.nz/initiatives/defining-supervision/121
What supervision does not provide is a casual informal environment consisting of honest opinions (both clinically informed and personal) with regards to lived experiences of just being an occupational therapist as well as information around intricately researched interest topics by the individuals involved. Peer support offers the ability to add to the therapists body of knowledge under no time or goal constraints and potentially from the comfort of your own home if via social media.
Peer support also provides a group setting of which Finlay,1993 discusses as enabling members to bond together due to their groups identity and enhance therapeutic communication and occupational function (Finlay, 1993) (Duncan, 2011). This is opposed to one on one sessions had in supervision.
Do new graduate OT’s need access to more informal support to assist with moulding their professional identity?
Davys, A. (2007). Active participation in supervision: a supervisee’s guide. In D. Wepa (Ed.) Clinical Supervision in Aotearoa/ New Zealand. Auckland: Pearson.
Duncan, E., A. (2011). (Ed.). Foundations for practice in occupational therapy. (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Finlay, L. (1993). Groupwork in occupational therapy. Therapy in practice (38). Canada: US.
“Peer support is a system of giving and receiving help founded on key principles of respect, shared responsibility, and mutual agreement of what is helpful. Peer support is not based on psychiatric models and diagnostic criteria. It is about understanding another’s situation empathically through the shared experience” – Repper & Carter, 2011, pp.394
As discussed earlier, new graduates express feelings of loss of role identity and value within their first year of practice as they transition from novice to expert. The first years of practice as a new graduate OT can be stressful with constant professional development and learning (Tryssenaar & Perkins, 1999). Being in a peer support group, an individual is able to identify their role through comparison and contrast to others (Christiansen & Townsend, 2010). Through respect, value and responsibility a peer support group can also bring a sense of doing, being, becoming and belonging that may be lost in the midst of angst and stress out in the busy field of practice.
Peer support could be a great way for novice practitioners to align their values and beliefs with those of their colleagues as a means for developing their professional identity (Morley, 2009).
Christiansen, C., & Townsend, A. E. (2010). Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living. New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Morley, M. (2009). Contextual factors that have an impact on the transitional experience of newly qualified occupational therapists. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(11), 507-514
Repper, J., Carter, T., (2011). A review of the literature on peer support in mental health services, Journal Of Mental Health 20, no. 4: 392-411. Doi: 10.3109
For best occupational therapy practice, I feel the need to be healthy myself. I have a great work-life balance and evenly distribute time to look after myself in order to better my work as an occupational therapy student. Burnout syndrome is common among healthcare workers and understanding what helps you as a therapist to feel emotionally and physically well is essential for role identity and value.
Here is a good article about Burnout syndrome: Burnout in Therapists: Inevitable or Preventable?
In this article it is stated that individual’s must be open to seeking input from co-workers as well as developing “their own support system from among colleagues, being careful that ensuing discussions are not merely reinforcing feelings of inadequacy or anger.” (Wolfe, 2015).
I socialise a lot with peers who share similar values and beliefs to me. I have a group of friends I have met through studying occupational therapy and we meet up at lunch or over coffee and take time to discuss topics of interest. These topics usually include what we have learnt in class and what each others opinions are of the use of specific frameworks and interventions as well as work we are finding challenging. All in all, I believe these meet ups are beneficial for my own professional identity as well as my occupational identity (Kielhofner, 2010).
We are all living down in Dunedin and studying occupational therapy together. Soon we will be graduating and I am beginning to wonder how we will keep such regular informal contact and how necessary this has been for my professional development and identity. The transitional process I am soon to face will mean a loss of this meaningful occupation and it is highly likely to have an impact on my future practice as an occupational therapist.
How can we utilise peer support as a means of allowing this informal contact to continue beyond the realms of study?
Kielhofner, G. (2010). Model of Human Occupation: Theory and application. Fourth Edition: Philidelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
Wolfe, A., G. (2015). Burnout of therapists: inevitable or preventable? Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association. 61: 1046-1050. Retrieved from: www.ptjournal.apta.org
In a variety of studies conducted throughout New Zealand, it is stated that new graduate occupational therapists (OT’s) struggle to experience strong role identity and value within their first year of work. It is also stated that good interpersonal relationships can assist with the development of ones professional identity (Morley, 2009) (Smith & Pilling, 2007) (Tryssenaar & Perkins, 1999). What are the benefits of and what are some ways we can utilise peer support in our future practice as occupational therapists?
In this blog I will discuss my thoughts and research on the difficulties that we may face within the transition period from student to therapist that is fast approaching me and my OT peers. I will then discuss what is available in terms of support for us within this period followed by addressing the need for access to more informal forms of peer support for OT new graduates.
Morley, M. (2009). Contextual factors that have an impact on the transitional experience of newly qualified occupational therapists. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(11), 507-514.
Smith, R. A., Pilling, S. (2007). Allied health graduate program- supporting the transition from student to professional in an interdisciplinary program. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 21(3), 265-276.
Tryssenaar, J., Perkins, J. (1999). From student to therapist: Exploring the first year of practice. The Amercian Journal of Occupational Therapy.