Occupational Therapy student placements: The Student's View

Occupational Therapy student placements: The Student's View

New students and those thinking about studying Occupational Therapy often ask: what is placement like, where will I go and what will I learn? During the Covid-19 pandemic and prior to it, our students have undertaken placements in a variety of settings. They have applied knowledge gained at University, developed clinical skills, and experienced what it’s like to work alongside qualified Occupational Therapists in the real world. The people who can best tell you what our placements are all about are our current students, so we asked them to tell us how they’ve found their placements and why the University of Cumbria was the right choice for them.

 Kirsty Mcmath, OT Student

Kirsty McMath, 3rd Year BSc Occupational Therapy Student 

Where did you go on placement?

My most recent placement was with a community re-ablement team within the NHS. The service focused on supporting people to regain their independence, skills, and abilities after a period of illness or if having difficulties completing their everyday activities. The role of the service was to reduce demand on A&E and potentially the need for ongoing care.

What did you learn?

This placement experience was during COVID-19, this enabled me to consider ways to problem-solve and adapt my communication, assessment, and observation skills, which will be vital as an OT. My educator and the team were really supportive so that I could not only meet the learning outcomes of the placement but ensure that I could learn skills vital for my future career.

How has a UoC placement contributed to your understanding of OT?

At the start of the course, I thought I knew exactly what area of practice I wanted to go into when I qualified. As my placement experiences have been so varied, I feel it has widened my knowledge of local opportunities that I would not have considered before.

 Lee Winterburn, OT Student

Lee Winterburn, 2nd Year BSc Occupational Therapy Student

What type of placement did you go on?

My placement was within wheelchair services, covering all age ranges. I looked at standards and provision of wheelchairs including complex bespoke wheelchairs and palliative clients. The placement was complex and required a good knowledge of anatomy and conditions as it covered such a wide client base.

What did you learn?

The placement has taught me how postural and functional needs can be essential for wheelchair users. They aid in occupational engagement and functional ability. The placement taught me that sometimes verbal communication is not possible, but there are a vast array of tools and aids to communicate with including gestures and different strategies families use to aid the service provision.

Has it opened any exciting new ideas about where you want to work when you graduate from UoC?

My time in wheelchair services has opened my eyes. I’ve changed from wanting to go back to my background of frailty to move into a paediatric setting as I found this a very rewarding area I hadn’t previously thought about. I have seen how a wheelchair can change a child’s life and enable them to complete occupations that their siblings take for granted, giving them a sense of accomplishment.

Jennifer Gibson, OT Student

Jennifer Gibson, 2nd Year BSc Occupational Therapy Student

Where was your UoC placement?

I was in a specialist perinatal mental health placement in the community. This is a relatively new service that is still expanding within the NHS Five Year Forward plan. It's currently for women trying to conceive up until the baby is a year old who have mental health conditions.

What have you enjoyed the most?

I've been able to see how perinatal mothers (and fathers) have experienced occupational deprivation and how important it is to recognise this and the impact it has on their health and wellbeing, and also that of their babies and their social environment. The team has been amazing, really helpful and warm to me, and always offering opportunities. I've been able to learn about safeguarding risks and take part in lots of different training opportunities.

What have you learned and gained from placement?

I've learned so much about different mental health conditions such as OCD, perinatal psychosis, depression, and also all the stigma attached to mothers with mental health difficulties. I've been able to contribute towards the evidence base for an online group we have set up that promotes social inclusion and see the benefits of having a group specific to perinatal mental health. The women have all said it has been beneficial to them. We had an independent audit, and this group was mentioned a lot and an article will be in OT News.

 Georgina Crowe, Occupational Therapy Student

Georgina Crowe, 3rd year BSc Occupational Therapy student

What type of placement did you have?

My placement was with the Community Response Team. This is the same as a ‘rapid response’ service but with the opportunity to work alongside other services.

What did you learn on placement?

This placement experience was difficult to begin with due to its fast-paced nature, the service did not employ band 5 OTs for this reason, as it required a certain level of experience. I was on this placement for 8 weeks and by the end, I could not believe what I had learned. This placement really helped develop my confidence as I had to go out on my own into the community setting which enabled me to develop my assessment skills and clinical reasoning for interventions. I learned a great deal about how to measure and fit equipment, something which I knew little about before this placement experience, and I think most importantly it taught me the importance of managing my own caseload.

Has it opened any exciting new ideas about where you want to work when you graduate from UoC?

Prior to this placement, I had not really considered working within an acute practice setting. I always knew I would love community work, due to previous experience. However, I did not consider the pressures related to OT practice in this area. Although it was fast paced, it has really made me reconsider what I want to do as an OT.


Find out more about our occupational therapy course here.  

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