Student conference is huge success in ‘first of its kind’ placement for the university

Categories: School of Health and Society

The first Occupational Therapy (OT) placement of its kind for the University of Salford saw a hugely successful student-run conference take place on campus this week.

Usually, OT students would go on clinical placements, supporting clients using equipment and daily living aids to learn a new way to perform an activity and maintain their independence. However, after having to withdraw from her original placement allocation due to a broken ankle, student Sarah Mitchell was offered a Leadership and Education role, working from home. This was to include organising and hosting a conference and a workshop, demonstrating valuable non-clinical skills needed in the Occupational Therapy profession.

Speaking on her initial reaction to this, Sarah said: “I was really pleased to be offered this placement. I was worried about my ability to graduate on time, due to my broken ankle and having to cancel my first placement, but this seemed like the perfect solution.”

 She continued: “It perfectly matched the skillset I already had and wanted to build on, so was a great opportunity to show off my event management and leadership skills in an occupational therapy context. I feel as if I did exactly that.”

Supported by her tutors in the School of Health and Society, Sarah worked to organise both a conference and a workshop, tailored to her assessment brief, building her skills in promotion, advertising, event planning, management, research and communication, as well as considering all of the logistics and safety aspects of the day. 

She said “It’s really helped me reframe my thinking of OT. You can do occupational therapy in any setting. It doesn’t have to be in a clinical setting, and that’s really valuable.”

The conference took place on Wednesday 18th January 2023, with over 200 registered attendees ranging from senior managers in industry, to students, recent graduates and academics and practicing occupational therapists. An impressive range of speakers travelled to Salford to give presentations to attendees, with one even flying from Australia to be there. There were also virtual presentations given from New Zealand and other areas of the UK. 

In between the lectures, there were multiple networking events including an exhibition by industry experts. The exhibitors varied from companies who provide equipment for occupational therapy services, to employer services looking for recruitment, and a company which offers support guidelines to neurodiverse students on placement.  

Sarah said “It’s good to have the networking opportunity for students and clinicians to be in the same sessions. I’m really pleased with diversity of the attendees, so would love for people to come away and really think about the diversity of OT and how they can take that into their professions”.

Sarah also ran her own workshop at the event, which attracted 25 attendees. After seeing her peers go on clinical placements, Sarah observed that a large number of them had witnessed or experienced what is described as an ‘incident’ whilst working. She was “surprised” that a large number of them had not reported it to management. “I knew something had to be done.”

With this in mind, she curated a workshop to raise the profile of current processes in place to help individuals report incidents within a workplace, and discuss the barriers to students voicing their concerns. Attendees were asked to develop what they think a post-placement debrief should look like, and compare it to the current meeting strategy in place. This proved successful, with the ideas discussed now being reviewed by placement teams, in the hope that this will be provided to the next cohort going through placements at the university.

“It’s been nerve-wracking organising an open facing event, but it’s been great. The sessions felt vibrant and received good feedback. It’s been amazing to see so much networking.

“I hope from this, that I’ve encouraged students to be open minded about leadership placements. It has been so valuable in how I view OT and how I think about the theory of the profession”.

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