Part One - Why Should I Offer a Clinical Placement
If you want to ensure a pool of new graduate occupational therapists who are skilled in, and enthusiastic about working in the dynamic, innovative field of mental health, WE NEED YOU to provide clinical placement opportunities!!!
Anecdotal feedback from mental health occupational therapists and students alike indicates that students who have a clinical placement in the mental health field are more likely to choose mental health as a future work option. Local research supports the link between the provision of fieldwork placements and recruitment (Thomas et al., 2007).
Prior to the commencement of the QOTFC - Mental Health Project in 2007, the availability of mental health clinical placements for occupational therapy students had reached an all time low. Of the students who graduated in 2006, only 20% of UQ and 46% of JCU graduates had completed a mental health clinical placement during their training. This means that at that time, the majority of Occupational Therapy graduates had not had the opportunity to engage in long-term, client centred clinical practices with people experiencing mental illness, and therefore may never choose to work in this field in the future.
With ongoing workforce shortages a recognised concern in mental health, you can have a positive impact on preparing graduates for a future that may include mental health as a viable career option.
Research has shown that clinical placements provide a powerful opportunity to "recruit and employ the most suitable occupational therapists for arising vacancies" (Rodger et al, 2007, p s94). Employment of previous students has many advantages, including providing the reassurance of a 'known quantity' and a new recruit who is able to 'hit the ground running' (Thomas et al, 2007, p s8).
Impact on graduates' views of mental health
By providing mental health clinical placement opportunities for occupational therapy students, not only are you potentially ensuring future occupational therapy colleagues in mental health, you have the potential to positively influence students' views
on mental health. Research supports the positive influence that fieldwork experiences in mental health play in changing negative attitudes of students towards people with mental illness (Beltran et al., 2007).
Even if graduates do not choose to work specifically in mental health in the future, a positive clinical placement in mental health can contribute to the development of future therapists who have the skills and attitudes to effectively meet the needs of people affected by mental illness. With 20% of adult Australians, or 1 in 5 people experiencing mental illness at some stage of their lives, it is important for all future occupational therapists to have exposure to the clinical needs of people with mental illness, and to approach their work with this population free of stigma.
Involving occupational therapy students in mental health clinical placements can positively influence future recruitment in mental health.
YOU can play your part in the training of potential future occupational therapy recruits by considering offering a clinical placement in YOUR WORKPLACE.
Next ---> What's In It For Me?