Blog Post, Covid, Occupational Therapy, RCOT

Reflecting on #RCOT2022 Conference Blog post 3 – PLENARY SESSION: My very own “bear hunt”. A journey back from COVID Michael Rosen, children’s author and poet

Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal opinion piece of initial thoughts after attending conference, with an aim of being a critical friend, often just asking questions I have yet to determine the answer, if indeed there is an answer. This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessible needs. This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Micheal Rosen is a children’s author and poet, best known for his book ‘We Are Going On A Bear Hunt’.  He joined the RCOT conference this year to kindly give his account of his recovery journey from Covid 19 that included having to learn to walk again; He has also written a children’s book about this experience called Sticky McStickstick ‘The Friend Who Helped Me Walk Again’.  

We can learn so much from listening to people who have experienced receiving care and the impacted it had. It’s important for services to grow and develop to hear what was good and what was not so great, and address both.   

Regular readers of my blog will know I have my own recovery story from Covid 19 and along hospital stay. Initially I intended to just write about Michael’s journey, however his story made me reflect on mine, parts I have not shared yet, and this has become the focus of this blog post.  

Intensive Care 

Intensive care units (ICUs) are specialist hospital wards that provide treatment and monitoring for people who are very ill. They’re staffed with specially trained healthcare professionals and contain sophisticated monitoring equipment. ICUs are also sometimes called critical care units (CCUs) or intensive therapy units (ITUs). – NHS.UK

Micheal talked about his long induced coma, his lack of memory of this time.  Explaining having to rely on his wife and information written in his ICU diary by staff for him to tell this part.  He touched on the impact of the pandemic on limiting visiting from family,  recalling a time his wife was able to visit in an atrium of the hospital and played videos of his family to help bring him round.  He recalled some therapy input whist here. Using the term therapist thought-out his talk, acknowledging he could not recall who was who during this time.  

When asked if his psychological needs were addressed, he stated at the time I thought yes,  but on refection they’re were gaps.   He reflected on attending a parliamentary review of intensive care, where there was an acknowledgement that more needs to be done to combat the impact of trauma, for those that have lived through an ICU admission. 

My own memories of ICU are mixed up with things I now know were not real, being kidnapped, and using a swimming pool on the roof of the hospital,  there are others I have yet to determine were real, and it is those that have really impacted on my mental health. 

I was very low and suicidal at times.   During my time in ICU I was seen by a psychologist, and later when in a rehab ward had weekly phone-calls with a councillor from liaison psychiatry.  All of which was useful, but after a while I felt it was just getting me to mull over what had happened again and again, rather than find ways to move on. 

In recent months this trauma came back, finding help in the community was so much harder.  A GP who was unfamiliar to me basically said, you had great access in hospital, and left it at that.  

I sought help via my employer,  which did get me seen, assessed and put on a waiting list, for treatment which I am still waiting for.  The assessment process is repetitive, in all access to physiological care and long covid care, I have been asked to complete questionnaires about the state of my mental health.  Which I’m sure are intended as a risk exercise and outcome measure, but this was never followed with any useful treatment,  repetitively being asked about low mood and suicidal thoughts only makes me relive them.  

Reflection  – Throughout my 15 years working as an occupational therapist in mental health,  I have used outcome measures that ask about the negative impact of a persons mental health on their occupational performance.   We would then set goals often in that same session to work on. Talking about your feelings is important, but becoming more proactive and focusing on things you want to achieve just makes more sense. (but I am bias)

Challenge – As occupational therapist we are dual trained,  but perhaps the systems we work in that are diagnostic lead pressures us to forget this?  What could you do differently in your practise to ensure you are addressing both physical and emotional impacts on occupational performance?

General ward and rehab 

Once Michael left ICU he was moved to what he called a geriatric ward –  he stated he did not want to criticise the NHS, but this was not the right place for him.  Later he was send to a rehabilitation ward where he got the help he needed including lots of physio and occupational therapy.  

Micheal talked about the motivation of others to engage in the therapy; using the analogy of school to explain his thinking, and people ‘bunking off’ when describing someone else’s lack of motivation to engage in the therapy.   He reflected a lot about staff and family encouragement, talking about walking again which he said he thought was nice but not possible.   

As he engaged in therapy, his identity became intwined with the equipment he was using.  He talked of being a walking frame person, then a wheelchair person, in his book he says he loved the wheelchair, and was able to move around independently seeing out of the window for the first time.   Followed by a stick person, and eventually able to walk unaided,  touching on a relationship with his walking stick that was positive, even feeling guilty at not needing it and leaving it behind.  In his booked he mentions its there in the hall way just incase.   

Since the presentation I have purchased this book and have read it a number of times with my 4 year old niece Lyra,  who has been a big part of my motivation in my recovery.  We love the book, and would highly recommend.

Although my journey of recovery is much longer than Michael’s, there are similarities.   After ICU I too was sat on a ward that did not meet my needs, whilst waiting for a rehab bed.  Micheal joked about being the opposite to Amy Winehouse, ‘I will go to rehab yes yes yes.’  for me it was ‘I want to go to rehab but the criteria says no no no’  

Sat for months before a bed in a rehab ward was agreed.  I did however have access to therapy, including speech and language, daily physio and occupational therapy, and regular input from a dietitian.  I have very fond memories of this input much of which I have focused on in other blog posts.  As I write this a big smile beams across my face, it was a painful time, but I very much felt cared for and not given up on.  

I have mixed memories and feelings about my time in rehabilitation. It was a neuro-rehabilitation ward, my existing cerebral palsy was what qualified me to meet the criteria, has a neurological condition it was having an impact on my body rebuilding itself from the de-conditioned of a nine month hospital stay.

I had little involvement with occupational therapy when in rehab.  The OT’s mainly worked on the functioning impact of those on the ward with brain injuries. They ran set groups; as treatment sessions, that did not meet my needs.   I was however given some goals, and a quiet space to do some things that I wanted to do, mainly writing for my blog or presentations for conferences of which I did twice from my hospital bed.  Later OT were involved to arrange discharge and the equipment I would need.  

I recall when engaging and listening to the others I shared a bay with; these are the insights I need to remember and take with me as I begin to return to work.  Hearing what people really felt about the therapy they are experiencing.

Like Micheal explianed their were some including me who wanted to ‘bunk off’ the gym occasionally.  Finding the motivation to engage is hard and on refection is often harder than doing the exercises. More could have been done to explore this I feel. Often the other ladies in my bay would express frustrations, of not being listen too, excluded from ward meetings about themselves. As for therapy, time limitations of physio therapy sessions in the Gym, not feeling they were improving,  or disappointed in the exercised done, were very common. I recall an occasion where a nursing assistant, commented on my lack of engagement and not getting out of bed at the weekend. There was no therapy at weekends and due to covid no visiting either, I was unable to leave the ward unaided and the ward did not provide activities. What would you have done?

Others I shared a bay with often didn’t see the point of the groups or tasks they were given by Occupational Therapy. Including a breakfast group, in an ill-equipped kitchen. A quiz group, and being followed walking to the hospital shop.   Of course as occupational therapist we know why an OT might engage people in these tasks,  but what’s missing?  Are we guilty of routine assessments and engagement rather than individualised assessment, goal setting and treatment interventions?

Reflection – The more I reflect, the more I see that criteria to access services and the manufactured environments and tasks we create to engage people, may be a barrier to assessing true occupational performance?  A necessary one at times but something to be mindful of perhaps?

Challenge – Write down what barriers you think your service has. Be creative, (The answer isn’t always just more staff)  Then do something about it.  

I have one more refection to come and will post as I finish it. Please do share your thoughts. I would also recommend checking out RCOT Highlights of conference here . Remember for your continuing professional development its important to evidence you’re learning. One way to does this is to use RCOT’s 5 min reflection tool or even the Equity, Diversity and Belonging reflection tool

Occupational Therapy, RCOT

Reflecting on RCOT Annual Conference 2022 -Blog post 2 – ‘PLENARY SESSION: Levelling the playing field;

Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal opinion piece of initial thoughts after attending conference, with an aim of being a critical friend, often just asking questions I have yet to determine the answer, if indeed there is an answer. This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled Accessibility menu that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessible needs. This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

‘PLENARY SESSION: Levelling the playing field; Leadership, physical inactivity and occupational therapy with Lyndsey Barrett Director and Lead Occupational Therapist, Sport for Confidence and Dr Chris Whitaker Senior Disability Manager Sport England

Lyndsey shared her own story of recovery and how occupational therapy played an integral part, reflecting on the occupations that were important for her to get back to.  Which lead to developing Sport for Confidence, with a no labels model. 

Lyndsey articulated how she provided occupation focused intervention using sport activities, giving great examples of how these interventions could enhance occupational performance.  For example a swimming session can achieve so many goals, including washing and dressing practise.  What I liked about this is the natural way to assess and develop  skill, rather than a manufactured task for the purpose of assessment, which is often the case within hospital settings. 

Lindsey’s passion and enthusiasm for the profession shone through, and what she has achieved within this non traditional setting is core to what occupational therapy is meant to be.  

Also in this session was Dr Chris Whitaker, Senior Disability Manager, Sport England’. Who talked about his leadership role and what he is doing,  there were many statements that made me think.   He talked about the impact pandemic had it increasing inequalities and barriers for those with disabilities.  

Some take home statements from this session for me were: 

  • Getting people more activity by transformation sport and physical activity to fit in to peoples lives rather than us expected people to fit physical activity in to their lives. 

Reflection – How health care is very much build to suit the needs for those working in it rather than those accessing it.   There is so much to learn here.  

  • Lyndsey talked about inclusive outcome measures are hard to come by, 

Refection on how do we ensure outcome measures are inclusive, co-production and shows the information required.  

  • Lindsey challenged barriers of new ways of managing money the pandemic has created.  Not everyone has access to card payments, online banking as away of paying for things. Cash is important,  touching on the idea that some of that is about skilling people but some is also about understanding that using cash is preferable for some. 

Refection – made me think about my Dad’s reluctance to use self checkouts,  my initial thought was I need to teach him how to use these, because I find them useful,  but that doesn’t mean its right for him.  

Reminded me to set the goals people want rather than what and need rather we think they want and need.

I have more refections to come and will post them as I finish them. Please do share your thoughts. I would also recommend checking out RCOT Highlights of conference here . Also remember for your continuing professional development its important to evidence your learning. One way to does this is to use RCOT’s 5 min reflection tool or even the Equity, Diversity and Belonging reflection tool

Blog Post, Disability, Occupational Therapy, RCOT

Reflecting on Royal College of Occupational Therapists Annual Conference 2022 – Blog 1 The Online Platform.

Acknowledgment –  This blog post is a personal opinion piece of initial thoughts after attending conference, with an aim of being a critical friend, often just asking questions I have yet to determine the answer, if indeed there is an answer. This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled Accessibility menu that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your accessible needs. This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Firstly I want to reflect on the platform itself, I did not attend last years conference so I’m unsure how it compares.  This year RCOT conference was held on line over 2 days 14th & 15th June 2022. At a cost of £99 to members less for students. Also regional committees, specialist sections and those in steering groups had access to a small number of free tickets to use as they saw fit. I accessed a free ticket via my region, which was agreed as I was co facilitating a round table event.

Having access before and for 6 months after is great.  Being able to go back at recall a thought – you can’t do that face to face. I was able to familiarise myself with the platform and there was videos to explain how to use everything which was useful.  The headings were clear and I found the site easy to navigate.  

I loved the chat features, being able to see the audiences response as the presentation was happening adds so much richness,  and is something you don’t get in a face to face conference.  I especially loved the green hearts and ability to ask questions throughout the presentations, lest daunting than putting your hand up in a pact room?

Accessibility was thought about, although there is always room for improvement. The ability to have captions really helps me focus on what is being said.

Chat rooms were useful but I wanted the ability to either ask for a subject to be added or create one,  The RCOT hub could have been more interactive to help networking opportunities, as Chair for RCOT North and Yorkshire Committee I would have liked a easy way to connect with any OT’s in the region.  

There is so much a I miss about meeting face to face, the networking, very much the social element of conference as been the reason I have gone back year on year. The ability to focus solely on conference, rather than the distractions of your home or work environment.

But perhaps what is best for the membership to get access to this rich resource, and lets face it in the 40 plus years conference has ran, it has been only been accessed by the same privileged few in positions of power with access to money and time to get away from home and work. I acknowledge here that is not the case for all, and there are many that have attended because of there love for the profession and there for priorities the cost for them. I include myself in this, over the years I have self funded, being funded by my employer or by the college when I have been involved in regional groups.

Someone said to me they would never attend conference, when I asked why, although this person is a practising OT, they did not see this as a place they belonged. I may have been blunt in my description of the usual suspect that often attended year on year, White, middle class women, in leadership roles within the profession or working within academia. (I may have also said with their twin set of pearls)

I say this in the full knowledge of what you see isn’t necessarily what it seems. I know my mother will not mind me using her as an example, by the time she was attending conferences regularly she was in leadership positions with the NHS, a well educated middle class women with a home. Her background however, Born to an Irish father who she lost age 5 and a uneducated working class English mother, growing up in Paddington London in a two room flat, housing 2 children, her mother and grandmother who did not leave her bed, becoming a mother herself at a young age. It wasn’t until her late 20’s that she finial have the means and opportunity to attend university after passing an IQ test. I acknowledge that being white and from a stable family, that supported her gave her privilege.

So why does this person not believe conference is for them?

What is the point of conference?

To allow those with the means to meet up, share ideas, drink wine, enjoy the sun? Trust me for some reason the sun is always shining when its RCOT conference, wether down in Brighton, up in Scotland, near home in Harrogate, or over in Northern Ireland and even this week although on line the sun is out. Someone or thing clearly approves of Occupational Therapy?

Or is the point to make waves, use the research, practise, platform and opportunities conference gives to provide a better experiences for those accessing occupational therapy? Can we really get that from returning to a yearly event held face to face with the same people in attendance?

For me conference has never been accessible for the membership, and why not?

Does a future using online opportunities give us the most inclusive, powerful way to enhance and equipped occupational therapist with the right tools to make change and a difference to those using our services?

A challenge perhaps can this be free to the membership, can you imagine what impact that might have?

I am yet to make my mind up and would love to hear from others.

I have more refections to come and will post them as I finish them. I would also recommend checking out RCOT Highlighted of conference here . Also remember for your continuing professional development its important to evidence your learning. One way to does this is to use RCOT’s 5 min reflection tool or even the Equity, Diversity and Belonging reflection tool