Lift Up Your Everyday: Developing Yourself as an Occupational Therapist

Date 7 November 2022

For Occupational Therapy Week 2022, this blog looks at how research and continuing professional development, such as UON’s MSc degree, can benefit members of the public and OT professionals.

Nicola Cumbleton, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy

Today is the start of RCOT OT week 2022. Chances are that as an occupational therapist, you are acutely aware that occupational therapy is a greatly misunderstood or under celebrated profession. How do we as qualified occupational therapists ensure that we are best placed to celebrate our profession? Ongoing advancement of knowledge and the development of evidence-based practice seems the soundest route to me, as well as proclaiming the benefits of occupational therapy intervention whenever we can.

The theme of OT week this year is ‘Lift Up Your Everyday’ which enables us as therapists to celebrate that we can give people the knowledge to make changes that will have a positive impact on their lives. Some people say that OT is just common sense but, in my experience, it only seems like common sense when the necessary change is pointed out to someone by a therapist, often one with a lot of clinical experience. It’s hard for any of us to be objective about our own lives but that ability to observe, assess and intervene is a refined skill in occupational therapy. We as a profession help people to develop and make those positive changes by working with clients to identify areas that need to change to improve someone’s everyday.

Our profession is developing at an impressive rate with new areas of practice emerging all the time but as OTs we don’t always shout about this and the positive impact these changes make in people’s lives. Changes in society, or our awareness of society, have led to OTs working with those affected by situations not previously a focus for OT. These can include marginalised communities such as those experiencing homelessness, asylum seekers or new technology in assistive technology or virtual therapies. Practice is always changing. By further building on the research base of occupational therapy, we can demonstrate the importance of our profession and importance in nearly all walks of life. Research doesn’t have to be done by other people.

I always thought research was something for academics and authors I had heard of but once I completed some of my own, I realised it was for everybody. As healthcare professionals we often hold large amounts of data from patient care such as length of stay, functional outcome measure scores and frequency of intervention but do little with it.

By completing an MSc in Occupational Therapy at University of Northampton, you will be supported to use this data to formulate your own research, to demonstrate our professions worth. Academia can sometimes sound like a large step from day-to-day clinical practice. In reality, both can support each other. Recent research by MSc students has identified the benefits of new therapeutic equipment on children’s abilities to influence occupational performance. By improving grip strength, children were able to participate in more school activities and increase independence at home. This demonstrated the importance of grip strength in occupation and the impact of the equipment used.  Through research we can proclaim the value of our amazing profession and support those claims with facts!

OT is an ‘under-sung’ profession, but I strongly believe the amazing benefits that we can provide if we could only advertise and demonstrate it could change the world. By creating a ‘lift up everyday’ for our clients and the services we work in and demonstrating through research, that those changes have a positive impact both to individuals and society as a whole we can continue to strengthen and develop our magnificent profession.

Nicola Cumbleton, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy
Nicola Cumbleton, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy

Nicola Cumbleton is a Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at the University of Northampton.