My fourth and final Occupational Therapy placement at Alzheimer Scotland was daunting and exciting all at the same time. Research discusses non-traditional or role-emerging placements however as far as I was concerned terminology was immaterial, this was not NHS and was outside my comfort zone.
Emails and final arrangements were confirmed and I was sent a timetable for the 8 weeks of my placement. Some may have been overwhelmed with the multiple pretty coloured schedule however my preference for organisation was loving this! My Practice Educator within Alzheimer Scotland was obviously going to be my kind of person, organised and clear.
Core Skills of Occupational Therapy
My personal focus initially involved attempting to identify the core skills of Occupational Therapy and potential for occupation based approaches in a non-traditional AHP student placement. A presentation to staff within the office provided an opportunity to articulate and demonstrate the core skills of occupational therapy through a group activity to complete an occupational analysis, with the obvious inclusion of cake to promote further engagement for a student presentation.
Groups, support and advice
During the 8 week placement I attended dementia cafés, a choir, carers groups, assisted at information events and utilised meaningful occupations to encourage engagement and potential strategies to support independence with people living with dementia.
Every day my children would ask questions about me going to cafés and singing in a choir, so not only was I relating and discussing occupational therapy theory on placement, I was returning home and justifying the occupational perspective to my kids – the joys of being a mature student.
Events and groups are all facilitated by Alzheimer Scotland to provide advice whilst supporting people living with dementia, their families and carers.
Dementia cafés, I thought, “great, sounds like a relaxing cup of tea and a blether”. I was so wrong, these cafes are so so much more for those who attend. During every café I met fantastic people willing to share stories and experiences, ranging from daily challenges faced, to support independence, to favourite holiday locations and what was happening on Emmerdale. Those attending received peer support and advice from the attending Dementia Advisors.
Attending the cafés evoked a discussion with my Practice Educator regarding ‘being’ and ‘doing’. On reflection, a key moment during my placement and during my studies was realising my passion for my new career as an occupational therapist, the potential to initiate the occupational therapy process in unconventional environments whilst identifying meaningful occupations and challenges.
Music and singing
Choir, another fantastic opportunity to observe the great groups facilitated by Alzheimer Scotland. However, participation was involved, a huge accomplishment to the Dementia Advisor considering I am the person who only sings alone in the car. The choir demonstrated the benefits of social engagement through music, for some a new experience and for others a love they have participated in for many years.
This placement consolidated the value of identifying the meaningful element with 1:1 sessions including encouraging a person to demonstrate their ballroom dancing skills in their living room and increasing a person’s confidence in using an iPad to download family photographs and apps. I could go on forever however my word count for this blog is ending, therefore I want to finish by highlighting my three key learning points during my placement in Alzheimer Scotland as an occupational therapy student:
- Always consider person first, no matter what the setting,
- Identifying and applying individually meaningful occupation is one of our unique core skills and if success includes a smile, I can’t explain the overwhelming personal and professional feelings of satisfaction,
- Occupational Therapy has huge potential to enhance the services, support and advice provided by Alzheimer Scotland.
The development of contemporary issues within occupational therapy can be enhanced and influenced by everyone, offering a student placement within a third sector organisation is a key example of this. I would welcome your thoughts on this blog and invite you to consider:
- What can an occupational therapy/AHP student learn when they are on placement in a third sector organisation?
- If you are a third sector organisation, what benefits could an occupational therapy/AHP student offer your organisation whilst on placement.
Kirsty Stanley – Occupational Therapy Student
This is my final year at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, already consolidating my passion for a uniquely influential profession with an ability to influence people’s lives.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the organisation of my placement but there are individuals who have been particularly influential in the experience and will not be forgotten.