Speaker You’re listening to Allied Health podcast, talking all things Allied Health with your hosts, Danielle Weedon, physiotherapist, and Clare Jones, occupational therapist.
Danielle Weedon In this episode, Clare chats with Sarah Jones, occupational therapist and professional practice advisor at Occupational Therapy Australia. Sarah talks about her own OT career path, what her current role at OT Australia entails, and she outlines the benefits of joining OT Australia as a student, graduate or early career occupational therapist.
Clare Jones Hi, Sarah, and welcome to Allied Health Podcast.
Sarah Jones Hi, Clare, thanks for having me.
Clare Jones So today we’re going to discuss OT Australia as an organisation and the benefits of membership for students and early career therapists in particular. So before we get started, as an OT yourself, are you happy to kick off by telling us a little bit about your journey as an OT to date?
Sarah Jones Yeah. So when I started as an OT, probably about eight or nine years ago now, I got my first job at St Vincent’s Hospital, and I was really excited because everyone I knew wanted to work in a hospital for their first job. But it actually didn’t really suit me at all, and I didn’t really like the hospital environment. So I ended up moving to community health and I loved it there. So I spent about six years in community health working on long term goals with clients. So I remember one client in particular I had, he had a spinal injury and moved into a nursing home, and then we spent about a year trying to transition him back to living independently in a house. Then I saw him one day and I came in and he just looked absolutely shocking, terrible. And then I, after quizzing him why, he had had this massive party at the new house with all of his friends. So that was sort of the why I wanted to be in OT. It was just, yeah, he’s got his life back. This is meaningful. Goal achieved.
Clare Jones Oh, that’s fantastic.
Sarah Jones Yeah, I loved community health and the long term goals people had.
Clare Jones So now you’re working with OT Australia. What’s, what’s your role with OT Australia?
Sarah Jones So I’m a professional practice advisor at OT Australia, so we work to support and develop the profession, developing resources, representing OTs and answering their member enquiries and those kind of things.
Clare Jones So for all the students and grads listening that may not be familiar with OT Australia, what is OT Australia?
Sarah Jones So, Occupational Therapy Australia is the peak association representing occupational therapists in Australia, so our role is focussing on supporting, developing and promoting the occupational therapy profession.
Clare Jones Mm-hmm. And how does OT Australia differ from AHPRA?
Sarah Jones So AHPRA, the role of AHPRA is to protect the public through regulation of certain health professions, which includes OT. They set the mandatory registration standards that we must adhere to as OTs, such as our requirement for 20 hours of professional development each year. So it’s mandatory to be registered with AHPRA to work as an OT. OTA is not a regulatory agency, so it’s voluntary to be a member with us, so we create opportunities for professional development. We raise the profile of OTs. We advocate on behalf of members and I think most importantly, we create opportunities for OTs from all around the country to connect with one another.
Clare Jones Mm-hmm. And what role does OT Australia play in supporting students and new grads in particular?
Sarah Jones So we develop opportunities to help students and new grads transition into practice and ensure that they’ve got resources to help them have a really successful first few years in practice.
Clare Jones And do you want to talk a little bit more about the resources and programmes on offer from OT Australia that are most relevant to students and grads?
Sarah Jones I think one of the key reasons is that we have this, our new graduate hub. So that’s a self-directed online resource with top tips and resources to help you transition to practice. So when you come out as a student or a new grad, you don’t know what you don’t know. So the new grad hub really highlights some key things for you to be aware of, that will really help you make the most of your first few years as an OT.
Clare Jones And in that new grad hub, Sarah, there are some fantastic interviews with graduates there that sort of tell their story of their first year in practice and talk about the the challenges that they’ve faced and how they overcome those challenges and what they’ve enjoyed most about their first year in practice.
Sarah Jones Absolutely. And I think one of the key takeaways they mention is that the networking and building your supports around you is most important when you transition to practice.
Clare Jones Yeah, yeah. So we all know that networking is really key for occupational therapists. How does OT Australia facilitate in networking opportunities for its members?
Sarah Jones So at OTA we have interest groups where you can join with other OTs in your area of practice and talk about new things happening in that area of practice: research that’s emerging or key changes that’s happening in that landscape. We run workshops and CPT opportunities. We have face to face events; so we recently had a student careers forum and we ran our online conference. I found when I was a new graduate, the networking opportunities were really important to help me find my feet as an OT, and I think the more and more we see OTs working in private practice as well, where they might be the only OT in that practice, so they might be working with quite a lot of autonomy. Those networking opportunities are really useful for them to help them figure out what it means to be an OT and what type of OT that they would like to be.
Clare Jones I think from my perspective as an OT, I think there’s so much to gain from networking. It’s where you know, it can be to support you in the area that you’re working at that, at that time or, you know, OT’s so diverse that it’s a great opportunity to reach out to other OTs that might be working in an area that you’re interested in and potentially want to move into. And you can make those connections through, you know, networking events offered by OT Australia.
Sarah Jones Yeah, definitely. We also have a Connections magazine where you can hear stories of OTs from different areas of practice or different locations in the country, so it might be people working rurally or OTs that you wouldn’t normally have access to. And I think it’s really great to hear what other OTs are up to.
Clare Jones Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. So how do you become a member of OT Australia?
Sarah Jones So for students, it’s free to join OT Australia. For new graduates, we offer discounted memberships for your first two years after graduation. So at the moment, membership for new graduates is $350 and it’s easy to join on our website, otaustralia.com.au
Clare Jones So it’s absolutely free for students to join?
Sarah Jones Free for students to join, which I think is a great benefit for them.
Clare Jones Huge benefit. So what’s your best piece of advice for OT graduates, especially in the current landscape?
Sarah Jones I think my key piece of advice for new graduates is to seek supervision in your practice. So supervision is your opportunity to ask questions about things you’re unsure about and to explore your own development as a new OT. The constant feedback I get from graduates is they find supervision most useful to support them, and if they don’t have supervision, it’s always that they wish they did have it. So if yes, if your workplace doesn’t have supervision, you can use the Find an OT Search to find a potential supervisor and set up supervision for yourself in your practice.
Clare Jones And I think also for grads, it’s important to know that you don’t just have to rely on the supervision and support and professional development that’s often within the organisation that you’re working for. There’s so much else on offer, in particular through OT Australia, that you should get out there and make the most of everything that’s on offer.
Sarah Jones Yeah, absolutely. I agree.
Clare Jones Well, thanks so much for joining us, Sarah.
Sarah Jones No worries. Thanks for having me on, Clare.
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