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Finding your feet – day one as an occupational therapist

You've graduated. You've registered. You've landed your first occupational therapy position. Now it gets real. Here are our tips to survive your first day in your new OT job.

In a previous blog post we looked at the role of the occupational therapist and how you join the profession. But what about when you actually start work in your new OT job? What can you expect and how do you prepare for that challenging first day?

When it comes to the structure of your day, a lot will depend on what kind of setting you're working in. You may be seeing patients in hospital, in their homes, at a GP surgery or at a care facility. Or it may be a combination of those. Your patients could range from stroke victims to elderly people living with long-term health issues.

The learning continues

You may have aced your exams, but it doesn't end there. As an occupational therapist you'll learn new things every day. Hopefully, there should be a formal induction process and mentoring from a more experienced colleague. Be ready to listen and take notes. Ask questions. Get to know other team members and take up any opportunities to see how they work.

Trust your instinct

'First, do no harm.' It couldn't be more apt when you're learning a new healthcare job. If something doesn't feel right, don't do it until you've done some further checks or maybe asked a more senior colleague for a second opinion. Remember, pushing a patient to do something they don't feel comfortable with could do more harm than good.

Be confident but not arrogant

Some patients may take advantage of your inexperience and question your competence. You should be confident in your own training and abilities, but you should also not be afraid to admit that you're new on the job and may need to refer to a text book or a more experienced colleague. The patient should respect you for this. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.

Look after yourself

Your first day as an occupational therapist could be stressful, so it's important to do everything you can to stay calm and in control. Try to get a good night's sleep and arrive for work early so that you don't start the day in a rush. If you feel like it's all getting a bit overwhelming, give yourself a break. Take a few minutes to breathe in some fresh air and reboot.

Finally, don't forget to enjoy your first day. Occupational therapy jobs may be challenging, but they're also rewarding and you can really make a difference to people's lives. As you relax at home in the evening, take time to reflect on your experiences, see the positives and look forward to day two.
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