Guest post – DigiLearn: Floating heads: Video-calling Occupational Therapists in practice from UCLAN

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: Samantha Pywell – Practice Learning Support Tutor (Faculty of Health and Wellbeing)

As a community Occupational Therapist in the NHS, both myself and colleagues would have loved a way to connect more with local universities to contribute knowledge and skills.  At the time, I was doing a part time MSc whilst working and loved contact with university and my supervisor team.  Fast forward five years and I’m working as a Practice Learning Support Tutor at UCLAN supporting students on placement, writing up my PhD and contributing to teaching and module content within the new MSc Occupational Therapy course (and juggling two children under three….). 

As everyone’s free time is short, I’d reflected on the best use of time and how to engage students with real world practice from my experiences as a clinician.  “Floating heads” is a concept we trialled in the first term with MSc students.  The Occupational Therapy course team at UCLAN Skyped local clinicians in practice for students to talk with.  This enabled practitioners to remain available in practice whilst accessing a valuable two-way CPD opportunity (they had no travel costs, minimal time required to input 10-30 mins into a session).  Students reported high satisfaction with being able to ask their own questions to current real-world practitioners, link contemporary issues with session content they had learned in University that day, and ask about potential placement queries.  From listening to students, it also sparked interest in that area – areas which they may not have a placement in but might be interested in the future e.g. for elective final year placements.   

Students were very active and engaged in sessions, particularly around child and adolescent mental health, and being able to speak with an Occupational Therapist sat with a paramedic in a falls response car, waiting for referrals through 999. 

Video-calling practitioners enables cooperation in learning, and wider opportunities. For example, one Occupational Therapist offered a placement after the call, the other offered students to come visit their service. 

From this, we are looking to expand video-calling to more Occupational Therapists in practice and engage with our fellow clinicians. 


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