Overseas Volunteering

 

flag-of-moldova

At the end of July I will be travelling to Moldova to spend a month volunteering with an occupational therapy service in the capital, Chişinău. It will be similar to a traditional placement where I will have a supervisor who is an Occupational Therapist, and I will gain experience of applying the Occupational Therapy Process (Creek, 2003) to a setting that works with children with learning and physical disabilities. The differences? Well, I can only predict, but I imagine that my clients and colleagues speaking Romanian will be a noticeable difference to the placements I’ve had so far. I also anticipate that the cultural differences, as well as the emerging nature of the occupational therapy profession in Moldova, will mean it’s a very different experience to anything I’ve encountered so far. I can’t wait! I’m also going to be living with a host family, which will allow me to experience ‘normal life’ in Moldova and hopefully they’ll help me develop my Romanian language skills.

 
Why now?

Well, the plan came about pretty quickly. I’ve just completed  second year of my occupational therapy studies. It’s been a very full year, with 16 weeks on placement and 10 weeks in university (with related assignments). It’s been full AND great, I particularly loved my placements. And then it stopped. I had 4 1/2 months ahead of me with no great plans. Yes, I had plenty of my ‘subsidiary occupations’ to provide a bit of meaning and structure, but just not enough purpose. We’d been advised by university staff and 3rd year students to start 3rd year well rested, but I knew that I needed something like this to break up my summer, while providing plenty of time to relax either side of my trip. I also felt that the time was right to push myself into something a little more challenging. Just over a year ago I was about to undertake my first placement, and I believed I’d not be very good at it. Three placements later and I’m beginning to believe I’m capable of a bit more than I give myself credit for, so while my initial thoughts were ‘only mature, competent, strong people could do something like this’ I’ve come around to thinking ‘actually, maybe I could do this’.

The Placement

I don’t have details yet, but I’ll update when I do – hopefully in the next two weeks.

Oh, and for those people about to Google Moldova – it’s nestled between Romania and the Ukraine (about 50% of the people I’ve been talking to have asked about its location within the first two questions).

Eastern_Europe_Map

 

Reference

Creek, J., 2003. Occupational Therapy Defined as a Complex Intervention. London: College of Occupational Therapists.

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‘Emerging 2 OT’ Conference

Emerging2OT

On Friday the 31st May I had the pleasure of attending the ‘Emerging 2 OT’ conference organised by Michelle Perryman (@Symbolic_Life) and her fantastic team at the University of Cumbria. I arrived the night before and enjoyed a meal with some of the speakers, organising team and delegates. It was a lovely opportunity to meet some real-life ‘tweeps’ and discuss all things occupational therapy.

On the morning of the conference I chauffeured my lovely host, @clissa89, and myself to the conference and was rewarded with a tour of the campus. I then registered, picked my workshops (having a hard time excluding one of the four enticing workshops scheduled) and the day began.  Robert Berry, outgoing chair of the British Association of Occupational Therapists Northern and Yorkshire Region gave the opening plenary, reflecting on his own experience of his transition from student to qualified practitioner. This was followed by Professor Matthew Molineux joining us via video-link to discuss ‘occupation for occupational therapists’, with a key message that we are in a fortunate position to promote the role of occupational therapy by use of our unique skills and being occupational occupational therapists. I attended 3 great workshops discussing aspects of the transition to newly-qualified occupational therapist from working in private practice, being a Band 5 within the NHS and working in academia within the first 5 years of qualifying. The messages from all seemed to be that there will be challenges AND rewards, that supervision and support are key and that we must be creative in our approach to both finding work and within the role we have. The day concluded with Lesley Crichton (Professional Head of OT at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust) sharing her wisdom regarding her ’50 top tips for Applications’. There were lots of giggles at some of the ‘don’t do’ tips and also lots of great advice that I’ve noted for the applications I’ll be completing in less than a year.

So, that’s the ‘practical’ and very brief account of the day. Now for the ‘personal’ stuff. My over-arching feeling of the day is about how excited I am to be entering the occupational therapy profession. Having met so many motivated and interesting students I feel confident that the profession is heading for even greater things. The day was also significant in the joining up process of my personal, ex-service-user and author of this blog, online experience with that of being a ‘real-life’ OT student. It was lovely to meet people I’ve communicated with online, but I wasn’t too anxious about that as they’ve accepted the ‘pd2ot’ version of me. What was possibly more notable was joining up the pd2ot identity with the OT student identity with some students from my own university. It’s not the first time I’ve done it, but it’s anxiety-provoking AND nice, every time.

The conference was also my first experience of ‘live-tweeting’. I have to admit I was sceptical before I started that it could be done mindfully and without missing out on the content of the presentation. Well, I was totally wrong! I think it allowed me to be more focused during the talks, it required me to quickly process and succinctly convey the key messages (and be confident that I’d understood the meaning as it was going to be a public record) and allowed me to connect with other people and consider their understanding of the same event. I took my trusty ‘conference notebook’ with me (with pages of notes, never revisited from previous events) and barely wrote anything. Instead, I have an easily accessible record on my Twitter timeline, complete with retweets of the key points ‘borrowed’ from other people. Live-tweeting is definitely something I’ll be doing again!

Oh, I nearly forgot… I had a lovely #OTgeek moment of ‘OT Tourism’ and visiting the University of Cumbria’s library, with particular focus on the OT section – fantastic times!

So, overall a fantastic day on many levels. I’ve taken so much away from it. Although I think many delegates were final year students I feel very lucky to have received all that input on the transition before I complete my first application. I have to say the organisation of the conference was excellent, and all of the team were friendly and helpful. The only minor glitch of the day was the video-link cutting out at the very end, but in true OT style, this was instantly problem-solved with the offer of submitted questions to Matthew Molineux online or via the team. I really can’t fault the day at all (apart from wishing it had been a two-day conference!).

Summer Plans

Just a brief post as a visible commitment to lots of blog posts over the Summer. I have a goal of one per week, although some of these may be private reflections. I also imagine the blog taking a slightly different turn during this time. While some of the posts will continue to be the ‘traditional pd2ot stylee’ explorations of BPD and occupation, I also plan to use the blog for reflections and reviews on material I’m reading for my university studies. Perhaps this is a reflection on the stage in the ‘pd2ot’ journey I am at.

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