Tips for New Graduates Transitioning to New Therapists
Like any profession, you have to start somewhere. Starting out as a “new” anything is always challenging and so exhausting mentally. The transition from title of “student” to “new grad practitioner” poses many challenges related to the actual work, as well as adjusting to new changes in your personal schedule as well. Being a new graduate has had an interesting spin in 2020 with ever changing schedules and all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Put that on top of a new grad, and you have a recipe for extra naps in your day. Here are some ideas, tips, and resources for new graduates that may help with the difficult transition. At the bottom of this blog, hear some bonus words of wisdom through interviews from fellow new grad pediatric and adult practitioners across Montana.
Give yourself grace as you figure out your footing. While striving to be the best therapist, mistakes are unavoidable and help you learn and grow as you transition to being a new grad OT. View those mistakes, learn what you need to learn, and make changes the next time. This field is ever-changing, and there is always something to learn.
Reach out to your co-workers for guidance. They likely have had many more years of experience and can answer so many of your questions. If they don’t know, they usually can point you in the right direction of where to find the answers. You’re not expected to know even a fraction of what your co-workers do. Learn what you can from them.
Channel your learning style! Remember those personality tests you took in school? The ones that placed you in a specific category and suggested you were a visual learner, hands on learner, etc.? While you learn and soak in all the new information for being a new grad, remember how you best learn and communicate that to your co-workers/boss if needed. Whether it’s by observing, asking questions, or reading research, remember to filter information through your own unique learning style.
Set boundaries between your personal and professional life if that’s what you need to stay sane during those first 6 months transition from school to practice. If you’re like me, once my metaphorical plate is full, it’s full. Anything else added on will cause more stress and more chances of burnout. If saying “no thank you” becomes your most used word phrase, you probably are now aware you’ve reached the expert level of setting boundaries.
Be flexible! While you figure out how to be your “own” practitioner, try new ways and strategies to see what fits you and your client best. Healthcare is never black and white and having to be flexible with schedule changes, filling in for someone, getting sick, etc., is all unavoidable.
While these are some of my own tips and tricks, I interviewed fellow new graduates from around Montana. They were asked several questions about their transition from student to a new grad occupational therapist. All of the OT’s are either currently working in pediatrics or in a skilled nursing facility.
Questions and Answers from New Graduates
Q1: How do you set boundaries for yourself as a new grad?
A: I set time limits on when I answer work related emails, phone calls, and messages, as well as documentation. I don’t let myself be accessible outside of work hours to my patients.
Q2: What is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make since transitioning from student to OT?
A: The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is becoming a supervisor for a COTA. It requires constant communication about our caseload in order to stay up to date with the patient’s plan of care.
Q3: How does your learning style impact how you develop new skill as a new grad?
A1: I’m a hands on learner, so I tend to ask my coworkers and boss for feedback or ideas during sessions if they’re treating in the same room as me.
A2: I love to read and soak up all of the new OT information I can even if it is not directly related to my work. Learning through research and reading has been really helpful for me.
Q4: What’s your favorite thing about being a new grad?
A1: The ability to research and focus my practice into whatever area interests me the most. Having independence in a private practice is amazing.
A2: The chance to learn about development from a trauma informed focus. Also, learning a lot more about reflex integration and seeing large improvements in unexpected skill areas due to reflex integration.
FAQ 1: What are some helpful websites and resources for new graduate OT’s?
While these tips for new graduates are focused on new occupational therapists, they can be applied to almost any profession!