What I Learned This Year as an Occupational Therapy Mentor – Advice for New Grad Occupational Therapists
Here is what I have learned so far and my advice for new grad occupational therapists. It has been 2 years since I started TheVirtualPediatricOT.com and a year since I started my mentorship programs.
Even though I have supervised many fieldwork students, worked with a university on their program, and mentored many other occupational therapists and other disciplines over the years, I have still learned a lot this past year.
- Many new therapists do not know how to ask questions initially. It is hard to get therapists to come to my free Q&A and free mentorship calls. What are we hiding behind? Fear of lack of knowledge? But once we get started, the questions keep coming! Those who show up, go up.
- It can be challenging to get started in a new mentor/mentee relationship. There is a get to know you period, just like with a fieldwork supervisor or new boss. It takes a bit to assess knowledge levels and get in a groove.
- Soft skills take effort since this is very often an OTs first job. How to talk to parents and families is a skill that is rarely covered in OT school!
- Documentation takes longer than expected. The wording can be challenging to describe interventions for new graduates. Many do not know how much to put into daily notes and evaluations. Usually, they are writing too much. Too much time completing paperwork after hours and on weekends is a guaranteed road to burnout.
- Many OTs don’t have supervisors to ask questions to. Or if they do, time is so limited with them.
- New graduate occupational therapists have all the knowledge but need help putting it all together
- Many OTs enjoy having someone to talk to that is not affiliated with their place of employment.
- Not all fieldwork experiences are created equal. I believe observing other OTs is critical in the early years of practice. If you didn’t have this in your fieldwork, and in your first job, reach out somewhere in your professional life to find a mentor and have regular conversations about your clients.
- Taking CEU courses is not a substitution for brainstorming cases and mentorship.
- I find new OTs hesitate when I ask for a case to discuss. Get comfortable asking questions, it doesn’t mean you don’t know what you are doing!
- Become a well-rounded generalist first. Learn as much as you can in all areas of pediatric OT. It will serve you well in the future. Don’t go so deep in only one area of practice unless you have a very specific caseload already. Many OTs are tempted to specialize early.
- New OTRs are not sure how to supervise a COTA, especially one with more experience than themselves.
- Many are not sure what evaluations to select. They may have an over-dependence on having all the knowledge from evaluations.
- Understanding how insurance may or may not pay for the treatment session depending on what is in their evaluation and/or notes is a learned skill.
- Many new OTs lack a good understanding of their role in school-based therapy versus the medical model. And within school-based, how we can differentiate ourselves from educators?
Being a mentor is hard work but a lot of fun. I love seeing my mentees grow and love being Occupational Therapists.
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