The year was 2015, I had recently moved with my husband to a small town in the west coast of Florida, and I had just passed the NBCOT exam. I was officially a board certified occupational therapist eager to begin my career. However, in a small town it was difficult to find a large network of occupational therapists. We are all aware of how unfamiliar people are with the occupational therapy profession and in a small town, it was even more uncommon. Luckily, I was able to find a job in a private pediatric outpatient clinic which mostly provided speech therapy services, and I was the only OT. The first two-years were very challenging. As a new grad having to learn the ropes on your own can be very isolating and stressful.
I quickly found myself working long nights doing research and double checking my work. Everything took twice as long and I yearned for validation as a competent therapist. Fast forward to 2019, I am now living in a big city working in a large teaching hospital surrounded by therapists with multiple years of experience. Rotating through several departments and soaking up every bit of information that I can. Though my heart is still with that small private outpatient clinic. I have welcomed this opportunity to learn and grow as a therapist. I can see how this would have been the easiest most sensical road. If you are a new grad embarking on your first year as a working therapist, I highly recommend you look for a setting that provides mentorship. Having someone to bounce ideas off of and provide helpful tips/resources is crucial to developing your skills as a new practitioner. However, with this said having had this experience I can definitely say that it taught me to believe in myself, how to be adaptable and self-led, and how to think outside of the box. If given the option I would do it all over again because it allowed me to become the therapist I am today.
Here are a few tips if you find yourself in a setting without a mentor:
PODCASTS. When driving to and from work I always felt less alone if I listened to a podcast. Listening to someone chat about occupational therapy topics allowed me to feel like I was having a conversation with other OT’s about the profession. Podcasts are also a great tool to learn the latest research and news, if your schedule is hectic and doesn’t afford you the time to sit down and read. You can read about my favorite podcasts in this previous post.
OT FORUMS. Occupational therapy regional/district forums are made up of a network of OT’s in a specific area who get together on a regular basis in order to host networking events or continuing education courses. Your state’s occupational therapy association can provide more information about local forums in your area. For information about Florida’s occupational therapy forums visit here.
REACH OUT TO YOUR PROFESSORS. Your occupational therapy professor’s can be a great resource to provide guidance on how to navigate your first year as a therapist. They can refer you to job openings within your area of interest, or serve as great references on your resume. Several of my professors were of great help to me in providing tips and advice for job interviews as well as for negotiating my salary.
FACEBOOK GROUPS. As a new therapist having the ability to assess different OT’s for treatment ideas and resources that will save you time is really important. Facebook groups are an amazing tool to ask specific questions and have other OT’s provide their input.
SOCIAL MEDIA. When looking for inspiration, humor, and a behind the scenes look at being an occupational therapist. Look no further than Instagram or twitter. In the last few years there has been an influx of occupational therapy accounts that add value to your feed. Some of my favorites include: @pocketot, @lgthefitot, @theothub, @cait_the_cota, @taelormadeot.
AOTA COMMUNOT. COMMUNOT is an occupational therapy forum for AOTA members were OT’s, COTA’s, and OT students can post questions and/or their opinion on different topics. It is a great place for collaboration with other OT’s and to hear the latest in OT news.
NBCOT NAVIGATOR. The NBCOT Navigator allows you to engage in therapy scenarios through online simulations. It will provide you with feedback based on your decisions during the simulation and suggest reading material if you are lacking in a skill area.
If you have other suggestions/resources please comment below.