Blog Archives

Books and Health #YAShot Blog Tour

Today’s post is part of the blogtour for YA Shot which is a one-day Young Adult and Middle Grade festival taking place in Uxbridge on 28th October 2015.

With thanks to the wonderful Alexia Casale for letting me take part.

Books and Employability

As an Occupational Therapist (and previously a university lecturer) I was interested in looking at how bookish pursuits linked to future employability. I’ve since expanded the post slightly to not only consider how books link to health and social care careers, but also to how books impact on our health in general. I’m a writer and voracious reader so I should note my “potential” bias in raving abut how wonderful being involved with books is.

In Monday’s blog tour post by Rachel she talked about ‘doing books’ as a living. Of course, not all book lovers want to work with books, but, that doesn’t mean that we have to, or should leave books behind.

My job as an occupational therapist puts me into regular contact with people, and people come with their own stories. Being able to empathise (not sympathise) with someone else is a hugely important skill for health and social care professionals (doctors, social workers, physiotherapists, etc, etc) to develop.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Healthcare as a whole is revisiting Humanisation as a model for practice. It is acknowledged that sometimes viewing someone through a medical lens can make it easy to forget the person behind the body parts. In Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution Roman Krznaric shows how we can develop empathy through engagement with stories, and check out this article about learning about slavery through fiction.

I often encouraged students to read fiction and use stories to make connections to theories they were learning, and also to explore the meaning of disability and diversity. I also encouraged creative expression through writing and students who engaged in these pursuits really enhanced their skills in reflective practice which is essential (in my view) for their future learning and development in practice.

Medical Humanities is an emerging field of study – one which the scientific booky people amongst you might like to contribute in the future.

Healthcare subjects are degree level qualifications. Rachel mentioned transferable skills in her blog post. Reading could help you develop your comprehension and writing skills (and hopefully increase your knowledge of spelling and grammar), blogging about books can help you develop critical thinking skills and your ability to express yourself verbally. Taking part in drama can give you the confidence when doing presentations or speaking out in a ward round.

Books can make you happy (even when you’re sobbing at them)

And how can reading help you look after your own health and wellbeing? Again, as an occupational therapist, I have a particular view that if reading is a meaningful occupation for you then inherently taking part in it will be health sustaining. What makes it meaningful may vary between individuals, reading may be a form of relaxation, a way to work through emotions, a way to learn or it may take you into a state of occupational flow where time flies by without you noticing it. Talking about books might be a good way for someone to begin being able to connect with other people too. For me personally I have used reading in times of anxiety to take me out of living in the past or worrying about the future to being in that story. In fact, my PhD is exploring why writers are writers, and I suspect reading will come into that somewhere!

This article discusses research by neuroscientists that show that reading can enhance cognition, memory and compassion as well as reducing stress and helping sleep

And supposedly Harry Potter readers are ‘better humans’ As a ginormous Harry Potter fan and member of the The Harry Potter Alliance – my bias may be showing again. But I’ve seen the HPA use the themes from Harry’s story to connect to real life and inspire social action.

Science and art are not mutually exclusive subjects so even if you want to do maths as a living still read – it’ll make all the numbers come alive.

If you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime:



Do OTs Do Balance?

Saturday 27th October 2012 has been World Occupational Therapy Day and I am writing this in the closing minutes of the day which I celebrated by taking part in the special #OTalk organised by Gillian Crossley with Helen Rushton for the OT Global Day of Service on the role of Occupational Therapy in Public Health. I also attended a virtual classroom discussing Assessment and Social Media delivered by Merrolee Penman with Anita Hamilton. This was a test of the software for Tuesday 30th Virtual OT Conference which has the theme Occupational Balance.

My plan for earlier in the day was to read some of The Casual Vacancy and despite enjoying the first few pages my body decided to let my eyes droop and I had a snooze instead. Then I nipped out to meet some friends. Tomorrow I am staying in!

The OTs at Salford have come up with a fun quiz to review people’s Occupational Balance – they’ve called it Occubuzz and you can find it here –

Not surprisingly I found myself to be occupationally overloaded (hence the daytime snoozing). I decided to use some stick art to investigate why (inspired by the immensely talented Gillian).

I get interested in things really easily and find that I pick up things and then try and balance them along with my desire to watch TV, read, write, sleep etc – my PhD supervisor used the imagery of spinning plates this week which I have borrowed for my pictures.

But there comes a stage where this overload can become too much and things drop, and once you’ve dropped one thing, it can throw the balance of everything else off and you end up with broken plates.

So what I’m trying to do is OT myself and gradually I am putting some of the plates down to one side or sharing them with others. November’s plan is to prioritise creative writing by participating in NaNoWriMo and my PhD. I’ve still got a way to go so I’d call it an evolving process of finding the correct balance (as you can see by from today’s effort ;o) – but I get an extra hour in bed because the clocks go back shortly).

I was planning to write this in time to submit to Linda’s OT Blog Carnival but decided to prioritise and get some sleep. You can find the other wonderful entries here though -it does seem that balance is something that doesn’t come easily in today’s society (and OTs themselves need to work at this too).

So – who here finds themselves overloaded and what do you plan to put down/share?

If you already have great balance please share your secret.

To facebook or not to facebook?

According to my Facebook Timeline I joined on the ‘20th August 2007’ which is just under a year after it opened to everyone over 13. I have found it (and Twitter) to be invaluable tools for professional networking and personal pleasure.

My facebook Timeline cover photo

In Dec 2011 Sarah Bodell and Angela Hook from Salford University wrote an opinion piece for the British Journal of Occupational Therapy called: ‘Using Facebook for professional networking: a modern-day essential’ in which they discuss the value of facebook for networking – well worth a read.

In my post I’m going to cover some general points about using facebook:

  • The difference between friends, groups and pages.
  • How to review your privacy settings and consideration about whether anything is actually private.
  • Brief consideration of Professionalism and use of social media.



Obviously connecting to friends is the reason for facebook’s existence. It is up to your judgement whether you choose to be friends with people you don’t know personally (it is possible to connect to others without having to friend them all by using Groups and Pages). Personally I do connect to people I haven’t met but I may soon review whether to maintain this with people that I am not interacting with on a personal level.


Using Lists

I use lists mainly to ensure I am receiving updates from everyone in a particular category (e.g. best friends, OTs, Writers) but you can use them to limit your status updates to certain groups of people. I’m not convinced the mobile apps support this that well so I just end up posting to everyone.


Personal Messaging

Consider whether you actually want to publish everything on your timeline or whether it might be better to direct a comment at one or two people through personal messaging (or e-mail even).



There are three different type of group: 1. Open [members and content visible], 2. Closed [members visible, content hidden], 3. Secret [everything hidden except to those added to the group].

You may like to know that other people are only able to see what you publish in the group itself. If they click on your name they would only be able to access the rest of your account if you were already ‘friends’ otherwise they would be directed to your public profile.

When added to a group Beware the notifications onslaught – Lots of people don’t know that when they use the ‘suggest this group to friends’ feature that they aren’t inviting them but adding them to the group. This is something that you can only really get round by sending a message to a friend with the group URL link and suggesting it to them that way. If you find you have been added to a group you don’t wish to belong to then you can leave it straight away (on the website in the top right look for the little cog wheel symbol – this allows you the option to leave. Alternatively the first thing I would do (apart from maybe introduce yourself) is to click on the Notifications tab next to the cog and set your preferences there. You can switch off e-mail preferences in your account settings too.

Recently there has been an explosion of Occupational Therapy related groups and I can’t profess to have managed to capture them all here but here goes my list.

There is a suite of Facebook groups created by occupational therapists for networking and support from OTs interested in similar areas of practice. The original group was OT4OT, which spawned AT4OT, and then the rest is history.

AT4OT – Assistive Technology
CPD4OT – Continuing Professional Development

Dementia4OT – Dementia
Ergo4OT – Ergonomics
ET4OT – Educational theory
Geri4OT – Geriatrics
Hands4OT – Hand Therapy
Humour4OT – Therapeutic Humour
LD4OT – Learning Disabilities
MH4OT – Mental Health (as a side note the initiator of this group Brock has developed a supporting blog – – which he has populated with some excellent resources and information – a list of OT blogs, abbreviations list, assessment resources).
Neuro4OT – Neurology
ONC4OT – Oncology
OS4OT – Occupational Science
OT4OT – Online Technology   (The original group administered by the hosts of the Virtual OT Virtual Exchange that has run on World OT Day for the past two years
Pain4OT – Pain Management
Pedi4OT – Paediatrics
Politics4OT – Political involvement

Rheumato4OT – Rheumatology
Role-emerging4OT – Role-emerging practice


These are all open groups – positive I think because it hopefully means that interested non-OTs can access the information posted too – helping to further promote the profession. Of course this does mean that everyone is able to see who the members are and what has been posted.

All groups carry this disclaimer –

For your own safety:
DISCLAIMER: Anything posted to this group must be the author’s personal opinion and is not the opinion or policy of his/her employee. No individual will post to this group on behalf of any health service or organization without first gaining express written permission from that health service or organization. If you wish to post on behalf of a health service or organization it is the author’s responsibility to attain this permission.


The following groups might also be of interest:

Occupational Therapy Students: Get Connected –

OT New Graduates –

Promote OT UK –

Vona du Toit Model of Creative Ability –

Please feel free to add any further suggestions in the comments.



Pages are for professional or official use, and allow an organization, business, celebrity or band to maintain a presence on Facebook. You may only create Facebook Pages to represent real organizations of which you are an authorized representative (Taken from Facebook’s help pages). You have to have a personal account to host a Page but once the page exists you can add others or hand over administration to other people on facebook.

Since the introduction of pages one thing I’ve been dubious about personally is where companies make a personal account and ask you to friend them. In this scenario be wary that they will then see all of your status updates.

However with Pages you are asked to click a button to ‘Like’ them – this way their updates are posted to your news feed but they only have access to your interactions with them.

Some OT relevant Pages:


Occupational Therapy at the University of Salford, UK

BAOT/COT (British Association)

AOTI – (Irish Association)

WFOT – (World Federation)

NZAOT – (New Zealand Association)

Occupational Therapy 24hr Virtual Exchange

Kawa Model

The OT Club

Occupational Science Europe

Occupational Therapy at Bournemouth University

Occupational Therapy at Sheffield Hallam University

Otago Polytechnic School of Occupational Therapy

Health (and Care) Professions Council –

Again feel free to share any others you find useful in the comments


Public vs Private

Unlike Twitter, which personally I don’t feel works very well if your account is private, I prefer to keep my Facebook account to ‘Friends only’ so use this default setting.  You can have a public account if you wish or have the option of setting different ‘elements’ (e.g. Timeline events, photos etc) of your account to be viewable to just yourself, friends, friends of friends or public. There is a handy feature to which allows you to view your account as someone specific or as ‘public’ so that you can see if you’ve set everything up correctly. You also have the option to block someone if needed.

Facebook has had a few controversies around privacy settings and I think it is worth investing some time every now and then just to double check all of your settings. However if you have everything set to Friends only I usually (note there have been a couple of exceptions) find that the panic messages saying that Facebook is changing things don’t seem to affect me in this state of ‘lock down’.

I think it is worth reiterating though that this is all notional privacy – everything web based is always potentially traceable back to you and often when things have been reported from your Facebook account it may well be one of your ‘friends’ who has done this.

Facebook’s Privacy help pages:


Professionalism and social media

Code of Conduct – It’s important to be mindful of our professional codes of conduct and local policies and guidelines (e.g. Trust or academic policies) when posting on any site, including facebook. Hopefully things like maintaining confidentiality of service users is something that we would all do naturally (though this hasn’t always been the case if you look at fitness to practice hearings).

As with anything there will be divided opinion on which topics are appropriate to post about and which aren’t and I do think there are issues around freedom of speech, human rights etc. that are far too complicated for me to consider but some general principles about stopping to think before you post anything should be heeded.

I hope that I am professional when using social media but if anybody does see a particular post that they’d like to raise with me I think we are all learning about this together. I like to be me online and sometimes that me is a little bit silly and I know not everyone will approve of this but I really hope I have not done anything against the code of conduct or that will ‘bring the profession into disrepute.’

What I’m about to say may be a little unpopular and this obviously comes with my lecturer hat on (and is my own personal opinion) but the main concern I have seen in terms of the use of the Facebook groups is with asking for help with assignments. Some people might think that this should not be done at all; I believe it is not quite so clear-cut but I have seen some examples of it not being used well. Rather than asking what you would do with a particular client group, what articles might be helpful for an assignment I think it’s important to do a little bit of groundwork first. Personally I tend not to reply too much to these types of questions. But I would be more receptive to a post where someone posts a query, gives their point of view or understanding or highlights their specific knowledge gap (as well as making it clear it’s for an assignment).

My other question would be is how are these responses then being used? Is it being critically analysed and is it being referenced appropriately? Be selective about which groups you post your query in and direct it to an ‘audience’ that is most likely to be able to give reliable information.

At all times – I have seen debates about the rights professionals have to a private life and others still saying we need to maintain a professional persona at all times. It is becoming highly likely that when you apply for a job they will search for your online presence. There have been a number of headlines about photos of professionals with alcohol being inappropriate. Another issue for you to consider and I’m not saying whether I particularly agree or disagree.

May have to moderate others – Social media is exactly that (or should be), social and two way. Sometimes you may find that someone you interact with online (perhaps from a personal circle) has posted something, be it a post on your wall, a photo etc. that you fear might impact upon your professional image inappropriately. Be aware that this may be something you need to address and that you may need to speak to them to explain why you have removed something (or are asking them to remove something). A new feature in facebook is Timeline review where you can set an option to need approval before something is posted to your Timeline (be aware that this doesn’t necessarily stop it being posted on the originator’s though).

More than one account – Officially, if you read the terms and conditions, you are only meant to have one account. I wonder, considering how people use it now, whether this concept is a little outdated and I know some people prefer to keep personal and professional lives separate yet recognise the value of facebook as a professional tool. Perhaps this is something we could ask facebook to review but as a stickler for rules (and also as someone who just tries her best to be professional but human) I’m not sure I could cope with two accounts as well as managing the Pages and groups (not to mention blogs) that I do. Additionally my personal and professional interests overlap so much that I’d just end up repeating myself anyway.


Personally my whole attitude to technology is: if I don’t know how to do it use the Help pages or Google it (or ask someone even more techie). So here is a handy link to facebook’s help pages for you to follow in my self-taught footsteps –

A few miscellaneous tips

If you don’t like seeing particular types of updates in your news feed on the website click in the top right of the post which allows you the option to hide statuses by particular people or from particular apps, e.g. games.

But games can be quite fun – I’ve found Bubble Witch saga to be an especially good procrastination tool ;o)

Personally I find the web version of facebook (and twitter) a bit glitchy (e.g. today it’s showing me notifications but not the comments it’s notifying me about) and usually prefer accessing it through a mobile app – you may find the same.

You can add the groups and pages you visit regularly to your favourites so that they appear in the left hand column at all times.

Facebook and social media in general can be a really good way to develop a professional identity and to connect with lots of wonderful people.

Please share your professional use of facebook stories below!

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