Mary and Rachel Booth are mother and daughter and they are both occupational therapists. Mary qualified in 1980 and was made a Fellow of the College of Occupational Therapists in 2014, now mainly retired but working as a specialist advisor to the CQC. Rachel qualified in 2006. She is currently a Clinical Lead Occupational Therapist in acute and rehab mental health, and is the outgoing chair of the Northern and Yorkshire BAOT regional committee. They share their conference highlights.
What year did you first attend the College of Occupational Therapists Conference?
Mary: In 1995, in Edinburgh. Ashamed to say I did not attend for my first 15 years as a qualified OT. (Follow Mary)
Rachel: It was 2008, I was a band 5, and coincidentally it was the last time the conference took place in Harrogate. I had been qualified for two years. (Follow Rachel)
What do you remember from it?
Mary: It was my first time presenting at anything really, I presented a paper called “Outcome measure in Occupational Therapy” based on research I carried out in the workplace as part of a further degree. I remember being nervous that first time. I was encouraged to attend and present by Jennifer Creek as the Teeside University OT course had recently opened and Jennifer was its first course leader. I also recall the civic ceremony hosted by the city the conference was held in and the Therapy weekly party – both no longer features of conference. I can still see the room I presented in, all the seats were full and people were standing and sitting on the floor. I met OT movers and shakers and they had a great influence on me.
Rachel: My Mum had gone to this event every year since I was 12 and I was really looking forward to finding out what it was all about. I remember feeling overwhelmed when I was selecting which sessions I wanted to attend. It was great to hear from people with a lot more experience than me, and realising what a lot I still had to learn. By the end of it I had set myself a goal to get more involved in the professional body and to present at a future conference.
Has conference changed since you have been attending?
Mary: I have only missed two years since 1995, one when Rachel was doing her GCSEs in the same week and it did not seem reasonable to abandon her that week. I missed another when I mistakenly booked a holiday. I have seen many changes in conference, for my first few years the venues were in university premises but conference has now evolved to be a much more professional conference in a conference center. The range of CPD opportunities has significantly increased and there is now a wide range of learning opportunities to meet all needs. I do miss the after dinner speakers and formal dress that was part of the conference dinner – but do enjoy the more relaxed conference dinners and the bands we have these days.
Rachel: I have now been to conference 6 times and the greatest change I have seen has been the use of social media, both at the conference and in promoting conference. I no longer take a notebook – I use Twitter and my camera phone to take notes. Sharing the experience with those that cannot be at conference is something I enjoy. Twitter also allows me to find out about sessions I have missed and this way I still feel part of them. If you’re not tweeting at a conference these days you’re missing half of what’s going on. Twitter and other social media platforms allow us to build networks and keep up to date between conferences, but conferences are my opportunities to meet people I engage with virtually across the world in in real life.
What’s been your best moment?
Mary: It has to be 2014 when I was awarded the honor of becoming a Fellow of the College of Occupational Therapists.
Rachel: There is often a light bulb moment at conference, but I think the 2013 The Elizabeth Casson Memorial Lecture: Transformational Leadership in Occupational Therapy — Delivering Change through Conversations by Elaine P Hunter. Where Elaine championed the use of social media in leadership, as mentioned above using social media was something I was looking to explore and to get the recognition so early on in my experience was truly inspiring and gave me the courage to explore using social media as a platform for CPD.
How does conference meet your professional development needs?
Mary: I believe it’s conference attendance that has been the key to much of my development over the years. As a result of attending conference regularly I gained the knowledge, skills and confidence to take my career from that of a Head OT in 1995 (similar to current B7) to a Trust Head of Occupational Therapy and finally an AHP associate director in 2008 till my retirement in 2014. I now do occasional work as a CQC specialist advisor and conference attendance is still key to keeping up to date in this role. Over the years the networking, as well the chance to keep right up to date with research and progress in Occupational Therapy, has been the professional impetus to contribute to COT through council and my region. I can honestly say that conference attendance, as well as providing regular CPD itself has been the stepping stone to all the opportunities that have led to my professional and career development.
Rachel: I have learnt so much over the years, for me it has become not just about attending but also the confidence I have gained through presenting my own work. I now reflect with a blog, set myself objectives from what I have learnt at conference and share that in the work place. Through social media I have been able to share this more widely. It’s conference attendance that helps me understand the need to continue to learn, and share that learning.
What are you hoping to gain from this year’s conference?
Mary: This year I am really looking forward to hearing Wendy Bryant’s Casson Memorial lecture and talking to as many students as possible hoping to influence them to attend and present at future conferences – they are our future.
Rachel: I am the current Chair of BAOTNY region committee, my term of office comes to an end about the time of the conference. As the conference is in our region I am looking forward to working on the regional stand and meeting and encouraging as many OTs to get involved in their regions as possible. This year I was asked to join the OTalk team and we hope to have our first fringe meeting in Harrogate.
This year we have the largest number of students attending conference ever and it’s likely to be their first time. What advice would you give them to make the most of their conference time?
Mary: Attend a wide variety of different sessions, use the planner, and don’t miss the Casson Memorial lecture. Spend time in the exhibition talking to the representatives and viewing the equipment, talk to some of the old hands and do keep a reflective record of your learning. Oh and finally pace yourself it can be tiring.
Rachel: Please share the experience with others by tweeting during the conference, go back to university and share your experience and learning with others and blog about it. Having had this chance to attend, make it a part of your professional development in future. Build it into your CPD, set your self-goals about future presenting.