A guest post by Ms Jen Roberts, an OT student at the University of Salford in the UK
I have been asked to write about my student experience whilst on a mental health placement. First of all, I have only had five weeks experience so I’ll try to give you all a descriptive and informative representation as much as I can in the short time I was there.
So there I was, on my first day of placement in a Community Mental Health team. My Mum asked me the night before if I was nervous. I can’t say I was nervous; I was more excited to get stuck in and gain as much experience as I could while I was there. One thing I did hope is I would have a better chance to practice more of the OT process because on my previous placements, due to them being shorter placements and the nature of the placement itself, I was only honestly able to practice the data gathering and intervention stages.
I was assigned two educators, one who was also a care manager and my other educator described to me her being ‘just pure OT’. At the time, I was relieved that I had two educators; I saw it as having the best of both worlds. I loved the fact how the team were so welcoming and there was an MDT with other professional backgrounds (social workers, care managers with nursing backgrounds and resettlement workers to assist the clients with moving home, bills, interventions and all that was in between). My hope of being more involved with clients had become a reality as in week two I started carrying out interventions with clients independently (but with my educator observing) and in week three I began to visit clients independently. This was very exciting.
One of the things that sticks out while I was visiting a client to assist her with one of her goals, I overheard one of the members of staff at the home say “Jen? Yeah the OT, she’s here to see…” I was obviously quick to correct him but I couldn’t help beaming like the Cheshire cat and I thought to myself, “that sounds pretty awesome… Jen – the OT”.
Both of my educators were skillful and pleasant but with me always wanting to seem competent and please them, I was unaware when they were praising me. This then led onto a feeling of worry if I would pass the placement or not because I wondered if I was any good. Thankfully, this feeling didn’t last very long as that morning I was to receive a routine ‘half way through’ phone call from my tutor from our University. After speaking with her, my feelings of worry was passed on to my educator and we cleared the air. This all sounds slightly immature but I wasn’t aware how big the problem was until I spoke with my tutor. It just goes to show how important it is to be honest with your tutor and educator. In the future I will be more upfront with my educator, no matter how big or small the problem is.
Will it be a field I will specialize in once I qualify? It’s hard to say. People ask me all the time “what do you want to go into?” this question sometimes worries me as I don’t have the answer just yet. But I know not every OT student knows this answer when they are only half way through their degree. I still have three more placements (one hopefully abroad!) so I have plenty of time to make that decision.