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Policy, Promoting OT, Regional Groups

Promoting the Power of Occupation

Karin Orman, Professional Practice Manager for the College of Occupational Therapists discusses Promoting the Power of Occupation. Follow Karin.

The College‘s message is very clear- occupation plays a central and unique role within the profession.

Over the last year the professional advisors from the College have been visiting the BAOT regions to deliver a roadshow on the theme of Promoting the Power of Occupation. The sessions have been well attended and a good opportunity for the team to get an impression of current practice across the U.K., including examples of innovation and good practice as well as demands and threats to services.

After highlighting what the regional groups and specialist sections have to offer, the roadshow focused on the distinctive characteristics of occupational therapy. Participants were asked to consider what unique skills (our USP – unique selling point) occupational therapists bring to multi-disciplinary services. Once these were considered the list was reviewed to consider if other professions could also lay claim to these skills. Invariably the lists began with holistic, problem solving, person centred but what was left on the list as unique to occupational therapy were occupation and environment. It was disheartening when occupation was not even mentioned. Reasons and explanations for this varied – the narrowing of roles, the pressure of generic working, working within tick box systems. The recognition, however, that occupation was unique to occupational therapy was universal.

We can only influence and promote this unique contribution if we make occupation the heart of our practice and refer to occupation in our conversations with the public, other professions, commissioners and stakeholders. In the roadshow discussions there was a theme that as occupation is so embedded in our thinking we do not even think to mention it. Other members confessed to deliberately avoiding the use of the term occupation as “no-one understands it”.

One of our challenges to members is to define occupational therapy using the term occupation, to educate others. A guaranteed way of making a room full of occupational therapists squirm is to ask them to define occupational therapy but we need to explain to other people who we are and what we do. I am going to suggest: “Occupational therapy improves health & well-being through participation in occupation. That means I am going to work with you to get you back to doing your normal activities” as a possible contender. Many of you reading this blog will have better explanations so please share your ideas- comment on this blog or email me.

At the College we are also avoiding abbreviations- no more OT but the full occupational therapy or occupational therapist. Breaking a long term habit is easier said than done but the only way to make the term occupational familiar.

The main exercise of the roadshow involved communicating through words, images and actions key points from a service example of best practice- what the service delivered, the difference it made and data. A real challenge but again another habit we need to establish within the profession to really promote our role and ensure we are commissioned within services. Again the College is trying to take a lead in this with its new engagement programme and a new style of publication Urgent Care: The Value of Occupational Therapy (England).

The proposed roadshows for 2016/2017 will focus on appraising evidence and best practice in relation to occupation centred practice and how to evaluate and measure impact of occupational therapy within multi-disciplinary services. Look out for information on these through your regional groups next year.

Please email me with definitions of occupational therapy and occupation Karin.orman@cot.co.uk or visit Occupational Therapy: Improving Lives, Saving Money  to send in service examples.

COT members can view the presentation from the 2015/16 roadshow.

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