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Looking at the needs and desires of the whole person: Refreshing your knowledge

In this month’s CPD blog, Zoe Parker talks about the split in provision between mental and physical health services.

Integration between health and social care services has been talked about for years now. There’s another kind of integration that is more neglected as a focus: the ability of an OT, once they get settled into a particular practice area, to bear in mind equally mental, physical and social care needs (whatever their principal focus may be).

The way an OT career develops can often lead to specialising in either mental or physical health and social care provision. Some of the pros and cons of specialism are set out by justOT (please note that, as they say on the BBC, other recruitment agencies are available).

You may feel passionate about working with a particular client group or ameliorating a specific condition or type of injury. That’s terrific: but the danger can be that as you become more highly specialised you forget to look at the needs and desires of the whole person.

Another thing that can happen is that service or organisational demands push OTs into having a mind-set that compartmentalises and separates out individual aspects of the person as a response to stress and pressure. This can mean that the whole-person approach is threatened. The fundamental reason to celebrate OT is that the focus on occupation means that it is humanistic, holistic and person-centred. It’s such a shame that this doesn’t always translate to practice on the front-line.

One major split in provision is between mental and physical health services. OTs going down one road can forget to stop and look at the whole person and all of their needs. In an earlier blog ‘Seeking parity of esteem’, I talked about the disparity of provision between mental and physical health and that mental health is very much the poor relation in this equation.

To expand that I’d like to remind people who don’t work with children or young people or who don’t work in mental health to visit the MindEd website where we now have a customised learning pathway especially developed by and for OTs.

You can do the learning without registering but we don’t recommend this as then you will not have your profile tracked and saved nor will you access the printable certificate that evidences formal learning for your CPD. You also need to register to access the occupational therapy learning pathway, by specifying that your user group is occupational therapist. Incidentally, The DH thinks this work has gone so well that they are now commissioning similar provision with regard to physical disability, illness and impairment in children and young people. COT is involved in this too and we will be letting you know when it is launched.

My point in raising this issue here is to suggest that if you work in one ‘camp’ you can refresh your knowledge of the other by doing some CPD that is in that other area. The HCPC wants you to learn things relevant to current or future role – as you are an OT it is relevant to your role to remind yourself about the whole person and especially things that lie outside your specialism. You can also use a different perspective to foster critical reflection, (see my previous blog about the COT Code of CPD) by looking at your practice through a different set of spectacles, as it were and asking:

If I worked in a different field: how would my everyday practice look?

Please also share your thoughts on this subject.


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