Last year I wasn't so much into attending conferences or continuous professional development events. After a year of studying and being on placements, I realise grasping the opportunity to learn is central to my training to become a qualified occupational therapist. The University and my placement educator were so supportive when I asked if I could attend external events as part of my learning. Therefore, I made sure that I was able to go to the annual OTs show in Birmingham. On a Tuesday night, I jumped into my car and set off for the journey and little did I know that what I'd learn during the different keynote speeches over the two days would shape my view in how occupational therapy can really make a difference to peoples’ lives.
The topics from the keynote sessions were really fascinating and cover a wide range of disciplines, from neurology, neonatal units, home adaptation, helping stroke patients to cook independently, and even to use karate as an occupational therapy intervention. I've only managed to attend some of them and wish I could clone myself so I didn’t have to choose which one to go. The highlights were meeting Professor Sue Baptiste, the author of Canadian Occupational Performance Measure (COPM) and the talk by Alex Taylor, Becky Corfield and Jade Going on being a holistic occupational therapist within a palliative care setting.
Professor Sue Baptiste’s insights of the COPM, an assessment that is internationally known and widely used by many occupational therapists, was very beneficial for someone like me who is still learning to bridge the gap between theories and practical settings. Her sense of humour captured the audiences’ engagement and made me realise that just because a topic is serious and backed up by solid evidence, we can still have fun in our learning without losing our personality.
I cannot even begin explaining how much I have been moved, emotionally, by Alex, Becky and Jade’s talk on occupational therapists in palliative care. The differences that they made to their patients are well beyond my imaginations, and the stories they told made me realise the power of an occupational therapist in improving peoples’ quality of life. In particular, an occupational therapist was able to help a patient to return home safely so that he could live a normal life, despite the practical challenges and the objections from other healthcare professionals. Shortly after this patient passed away, the family said although it is sad to lose an important member of their family, this individual was able to play on his Xbox and watch a game of football, which was something he loved, before he left the world in peace. I found this story very powerful as it carries an important message: life is short and vulnerable, but with a little help, our life can still be meaningful.
On a lighter note, the show also gave me the chance to talk to a lot of equipment and service providers such as a rest-bike holiday venue for career and service users, easy to wear clothing for elderly people, home adaptation providers and I even got a chance to try out a powered-wheelchair! I can honestly say that even though two days at the shows was very intense, it was so worth it because I am even more excited to become a qualitied occupational therapist this time next year.
I have heard this quote before and it really sums up my thoughts after attending the OT Shows - “We [Occupational Therapists] do not ask ‘What’s the matter with you?’, we ask ‘What matters to you?’.” - Ginny Stoffel, the President of the Americal Occupational Therapist Association.