Learning: a Lifelong Journey

Learning is a lifelong journey

Tips for students who have spent time learning remotely during COVID-19.

 

Well, 2020 and 2021 has certainly thrown humankind it’s fair share of curveballs! And right up front has been the impact that it has had on student’s learning experiences. You will have by now done more than your fair share of online learning and will be quite happy to never hear the word ‘pivot’ again. As 2021 nears an end we look to 2022 and for many of you this will be your first year as a new graduate in the workforce. You may very well be feeling anxious about the road ahead based on how disrupted your studies have been. Well take comfort in knowing you are not alone. And take comfort in knowing that many a graduate in years gone by has felt anxious too about going into the working world. Thoughts such as “Do I really know anything?”, ‘Can I really be of help to a patient” and “What happens if I don’t know what to do?” have milled around in many a new graduates’ mind. But let’s be honest, current students can legitimately be feeling an elevated sense of anxiety about going into the working world. So, when life throws us curveballs the best we can do is have a go at hitting them and in this blog I will share some tips to equip you to feel empowered as a new grad to hit those curve balls out of the park.

 

  1. Know that learning is a lifelong journey. As an occupational therapist, I graduated with a general understanding of occupational therapy but it was in my first job that I began to learn the specific skills needed to be able to work as an occupational therapist in dementia care. As my career progressed I attended short course looking at the latest advancements in dementia care and then completed a dementia care diploma. So, as you start out in your career you will find that very soon you will be learning more in depth knowledge in the area in which you are working either through additional learning, researching or through learning from more experienced practitioners. As you prepare for your first job look to see what additional learning opportunities exist that will complement the area of work you are going into and begin to engage with this material prior to commencing in the position.
  2. Connect with a mentor and supervisor. Seeking out a mentor and valuing time with your supervisor are two ways to ensure you don’t waste time ‘not knowing’. Feel comfortable to ask any question that is concerning you and arrive prepared to make full use of the time you have with your mentor and/or supervisor. Much of what I have to share with students comes from the years of working with clients, seeing various diagnoses and observing the results of different interventions. A new graduate cannot be expected to have all this knowledge on board but by reaching out to experienced clinicians you will begin to add this to your knowledge base.
  3. Keep engaging with research. When your studies are over your time for reading journals articles and books is certainly not over. Healthcare is advancing as you read this blog and one can never rest only on what one learnt in the past. One way to stay engaged in current research is to attend conferences which are either specific to your discipline or the area of work in which you are practicing. Look at how you too can share the work you are doing at these conferences so that others may learn from your team. Journal clubs are another form of being able to engage with the literature and discuss findings with others. Maybe you will need to start a journal club if one does not already exist in your area of practice. If you do not have access to an online library, then seek out apps or other online platforms with access to journal articles.
  4. Connecting through social media enables ongoing learning. Social media platforms allow for professionals to connect with each other across the world and learn from one another. Twitter is one example where one can often learn ‘hot off the press’ about new initiatives or events. Facebook groups specific to your discipline is another platform where professionals come together to support each other through sharing ideas and problem solving together.
  5. You are not expected to know everything when you start out in your career. You do however know what your immediate strengths are so work to those strengths as you develop the skills required in your position. Keep connected to friends from your degree so you can share experiences and provide one another with support.
  6. Lastly, ask questions of potential employers to ensure there is a good support structure in place and a realistic caseload expected for new graduates.

So, feel encouraged that the road ahead will hold many more learning opportunities and growth for you to become the clinician you aim to become. And know that learning will be your friend throughout your professional career as you hit one curveball after the next out of the park!

 

 

Images from https://www.stockfreeimages.com/

 

Charmaine Swanson

Associate Lecturer, Rural Health Community Placements

Going Rural Health Ballarat

Occupational Therapist