July 13, 2016 by permanentred
Huge thanks to band 5 OT Alexandra Thompson for this brilliant report on promoting OT to year 8 pupils. Magnificent work! If you are inspired, drop us an email at BAOT.London@cot.co.uk and we’ll put you in touch with our careers promotion leads.
Promoting Occupational Therapy
A Careers day for year 8 pupils
On Thursday 7th July 2016 we were given the opportunity to promote West London Mental Health Trust and a career in Occupational Therapy to Year 8 pupils at the Cardinal Wiseman School in Greenford. The pupils are coming to an important time in their education where they pick their options, we hoped to raise awareness of Occupational Therapy and what they would need to do to be able to study it at University. The school informed us we would be presenting to 20 students at a time throughout the day for 20 minute sessions. The year group was made up of approximately 300 children and everyone who attended our presentation were a credit to their school. They were welcoming, engaged and asked extremely insightful questions relevant to our cause.
We formed a team of 4 Occupational Therapists of different ages, experiences and backgrounds. This complimented our approach greatly meaning we all had something unique to offer. Within the group was myself, Rebecca Brooker, Marcella Egan and Jason Kingdon all from the same trust working in inpatient mental health units. Speaking for myself, I was initially anxious about the opportunity having never experienced this before. However, after our first planning session everything appeared to fall into place and we had a solid plan for how we would engage the year group and get our message across. We recognized we should not use too much jargon as this would most likely be their first experience of Occupational Therapy, keeping it simple was our motto. We also wanted to keep it activity based with the hope they would stay engaged, interested and have fun.
The plan included:
- A short introduction of names and where we worked.
- One handed sweet challenge – To unwrap a Starburst with one hand and without their thumb. How did it make them feel?
- Graffiti Activity – To draw on the brick wall what activity they engage in is meaningful to them. Think back to the starburst activity and how it made them feel. How would not being able to do their favourite occupation also make them feel?
- Inform how Occupational Therapy can help people with a variety of difficulties.
- Inform how to begin a career in Occupational Therapy – GCSE’s, A Levels and BSc.
We became more confident in our presentation as the day progressed, adapting as needed for the individual groups. The looks on the pupils faces when the starburst were opened was memorable, food is always a motivator! They also reacted positively and admirably when we informed them the “Graffiti” brick walls had been created by service users with support from Marcella, they appeared to leave with less negative opinions on mental health conditions. This was also following a discussion about how the media can negatively impact how people perceive mental illness, you could see them captivated by what we were saying – a revelation to them and food for thought.
Some of the questions asked by the students were:
- “Do you have to be creative to be an Occupational Therapist”
Our reply: It helps! But we have certainly seen our creativity increase throughout our professional training. If you are unsure of something, your service users are usually more than willing to teach you which makes them feel happy and gives an opportunity to engage and contribute to their own recovery.
- “How do Occupational Therapists work with (specific condition)”
Our reply: We discussed many areas of work and conditions that OTs work with to emphasise that the opportunities are so vast.
- “Have you ever been punched by someone at work?”
Our reply: We receive specialist training in case this does arise. We then discussed the portrayal of mental illness in the media due to many questions of this similar theme depicting people with MI as violent and aggressive.
We completed the day in high spirits and reflected on the positive experience that it had been. The teachers at the school were thankful and stated that the children had mentioned the Occupational Therapy presentation to them. They were also observed to be looking at their OT resources around the school outside of the session. This was the first time the trust and the school and engaged in an event like this and agreed that they would arrange another for the future. I will definitely attend again if given the opportunity.
My colleagues wanted to contribute to this post so I asked for a summary of their experiences…
Marcella Egan spoke about her experience of the event:
“I was excited about the opportunity to present an interactive session to year 8 students at a local high school and volunteered immediately. Giving an activity-focused presentation was extremely satisfying and I felt that it really supported the students’ understanding of our roles as occupational therapists both within mental health and physical health services. The one handed opening of a sweet challenge was highly amusing and allowed the students to quickly participate in an activity and remove the tediousness of starting ‘another talk about career choices’. We giggled, they giggled, we provided encouraging words as did they amongst their peers. The graffiti art task gave us the opportunity to begin to identify ‘what is an important activity’ that they regularly engage in and offered a space to begin to explore how it would feel if it was not possible or difficult to engage in these activities.
All of the students we met were very well behaved and an inquisitive bunch of young people. We received well thought through and relevant questions, in addition to a few challenging questions about violence, hanging and death that we answered sensitively. Participating in this event has been a very rewarding experience that I will treasure forever and I would advocate for anyone who is asked in the future to get involved.”
Rebecca Brooker spoke about her experience of the event:
“Promoting OT to the year 8 students through activity was so much fun. Most of the students came into the room having never heard of OT and hopefully left with a basic understanding of what we can do as a profession. The students were great, engaging in the activities and asking some interesting questions. It was a very rewarding experience and showed me how important it is for us to promote our profession to the younger generations”.
Jason Kingdon spoke about his experience of the event:
“The students were great and it was great meeting them. They really helped to make a success of the day. Thank you to everyone involved”.
There is now the opportunity within our trust to become Healthcare Ambassadors where you promote your profession and trust further to encourage younger people to support healthcare services. It is a role some of us are seriously considering undertaking because of our experience of the careers day. It was fun, enjoyable and educational for us and hopefully for the children too! It increased our awareness of the need for further education in schools about healthcare matters. Furthermore, we reflected on the importance of promoting Occupational Therapy. As a profession we are slowly but surely becoming better known, appreciated and loved for all that we can offer. So let’s keep up the good work!
Written by Alexandra Thompson
Band 5 Occupational Therapist
Hammersmith and Fulham Mental Health Unit
West London Mental Health Trust