On realising I will not be able to attend the COT annual conference this year due to a two week jaunt to Bali (such mixed emotions!), I felt it would be a good time to reflect on some of the things I learned at the 40th anniversary annual conference last year in Harrogate, Yorkshire. It was my first ever conference and simultaneously the biggest step I had taken solo for my occupational therapy career to date!
There was so much build up to this event for me and a lot of stress and anticipation. Despite the fact I was making the journey alone, I had also never stayed alone in a hotel for that period of time or visited Harrogate- plus my navigation skills in a new setting are below average at best!
When everything was booked up, the nerves of meeting so many new connections and taking the trip alone were far outweighed by the excitement of meeting so many other people with the same passions as me! I was also excited to be absolutely immersed in OT for the next few days, something I felt would be so beneficial for my career. I was feeling professional, prepared and motivated!
I had booked up for a few lectures and networking meetings in advance so that I got to choose what best suited my interests. I attended a networking meeting for students, International lecture, Occupational Science lecture, Mental Heath lecture, Green Space Interventions lecture, Neurological practice lecture, Trauma and orthopaedic tutorial, Dementia presentation, BJOT (British Journal of Occupational Therapy) networking meeting, BAOT/COT annual general meeting and the Casson memorial lecture 2016. I felt that would keep me going for the few days I was there.
My favourite lecture whilst I was there was during the opening presentations and was on management in your profession, presented by Ann Francke. The lecture was fiesty and to the point and I left thinking about all the possibilities there would be after I graduate.The second favourite of the week was the Elizabeth Casson memorial lecture, which this year focused on the term ‘occupational alienation’ in different environments. This lecture revolved around what happens when a person’s occupation does not satisfy their inner needs resulting in isolation, powerlessness, loss of control and estrangement. It was very interesting to see how exactly occupational therapy can influence this kind of barrier and also to see that it is becoming more commonplace in our current social state.
I was actually really lucky to get talking to some other students from London who were also going to be attending the conference whilst networking through twitter prior to arriving. I was invited to go and say hello and made an effort to find the student I had been speaking with when I arrived. I was introduced to more people from Brunel university and then towards the end of the week I was invited out for dinner with them which was really lovely. So I can say now…thank you Jordan and the clan from Brunel who made me feel so welcome with you and made my nerves disappear! It made the whole trip more enjoyable and memorable for me!
In terms of learning progress, I found the exhibition hall really interesting. There were so many companies offering services I would never have even thought about before studying occupational therapy. Fashion designers who designed and altered clothes for those with physical disability to make life easier, games console engineers who designed special controllers for those with difficulty in motor processing skills- one ‘Playstation’ controller had the ability to navigate through a game with only movement of their head! I had a shot of it and couldn’t do it….I have never been a gamer though!
My plan of action after attending the conference was to keep up with my networking skills and try to soak up as much information as possible whilst studying in university. I have taken part in a weekly twitter chat for occupational therapists, continued to network through linkedin and twitter,and I have joined and attended regional meetings. The most important thing for me though is to stay passionate about it- I’m not unfamiliar with the winter slump and this is the first year I have actively tried (and succeeded) to keep up with everything I have been learning! Hopefully I can keep it up and I will try not to book my holidays over the COT conference next year!
Those who attended last year- I would love to hear what your favourite parts were and/or what you learned? Also maybe those who are attending this year can let me know what you most look forward to! If I can give any advice it would be to have your notebook handy, soak up as much as you can and network, network, network!!