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How Professional Supervision enhanced my career

People often find it strange that I, as an Occupational Therapist who provides Professional Supervision, still receive Professional Supervision myself, but the support it’s given me throughout my career has truly been invaluable. My journey began over two decades ago in the beautiful rural West Coast of New Zealand working as an eager and anxious Occupational Therapist working on the acute medical and orthopedic wards at Grey Base Hospital. Although I had all the qualifications and knowledge needed to do my job, I lacked some skills that are so crucial in any professional setting. Fortunately, I had the privilege of being supervised by someone with a wealth of knowledge and experience in various areas. I vividly remember walking into supervision with a stack of 10 new referrals and feeling completely clueless about how to manage them. My supervisor kindly helped me develop essential skills for the acute setting, such as prioritisation, understanding the functional implications of acute medical conditions, and the importance of collaborating with the multidisciplinary team for discharge planning. Thanks to my supervisor, I also gained the confidence to assert myself in team meetings, where specialists and orthopedic surgeons held significant influence. Later on, I took on multiple locum roles in different practice settings in Ireland and the UK. As a relatively inexperienced therapist, adapting to new governmental systems posed many challenges for me. However, supervision provided me with a valuable opportunity to explore the organisational and contextual factors in greater depth, understand regional cultural norms, and clarify processes. When I returned to New Zealand, I worked as an Occupational Therapist on a Rehabilitation ward in Whakatane. Initially, my supervisor was a Physiotherapist. While my supervisor didn't possess specific knowledge of occupational therapy, she had a remarkable ability to ask thought-provoking questions, guide me, and help me identify my own solutions. This enhanced my reflective skills and deepened my understanding of my practice. For many years, I served as an Occupational Therapist and Team Leader for a small rural team at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde. Supervision became crucial in exploring the challenges associated with leadership, such as conflict resolution, self-doubt, change management, and communication. This period marked a significant change in my life as I juggled the responsibilities of parenting young children and my work. Self-care and achieving a work-life balance became regular topics of discussion in our supervision sessions. After an extended period in the secondary health system, I ventured into a new role as a health improvement practitioner, working with clients who had complex social, physical, mental, and spiritual health concerns. Supervision became an invaluable tool in my toolbox to prevent burnout. It provided me with a safe space to process the range of emotions that arose from repeatedly being exposed to others' trauma. Moreover, it helped me recognise how my personal experience with Postnatal Depression shaped my worldview and interactions with clients. My supervisor played a crucial role in helping me develop a deeper sense of self, enhance self-compassion, and become more aware of my own expectations and perfectionism. Now, as an entrepreneur running my private practice, Workitwell, supervision continues to be vital for me. It allows me to stay connected to the broader Occupational Therapy ethos and profession. My supervisor also provides a much-needed reality check whenever I start doubting myself or feeling overwhelmed by imposter syndrome. Over the years, the supervisory experience has evolved from focusing solely on clinical skill development to fostering enhanced reflection and gaining a profound understanding of myself and the world around me. These are skills that I could never have acquired solely through formal structured training opportunities. Positive and safe supervisory relationships have given me a space to be vulnerable, offering a protected time amid the chaotic demands of being a health professional in today's healthcare systems. Supervision has enriched my identity as an individual and as an Occupational Therapist, ultimately adding incredible value to my relationships with with clients, colleagues, and the community. In the ever-evolving world of healthcare, Professional Supervision stands as a beacon of support and growth for practitioners across disciplines. It is a transformative space where we can deepen our skills, gain self-awareness, and nurture our well-being. I encourage all professionals to embrace the power of supervision, to seek out trusted mentors or supervisors who can guide them on their journey. Through supervision, we not only enhance our own practice but also enrich the lives of those we serve.

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