Like any profession, transitioning from student to new grad clinician can be exciting and challenging for new health care providers. You’ll encounter new changes in your work and personal schedule and find yourself in an unfamiliar environment.
As a new physical, school-based, speech or occupational therapist (OT), you’ll find yourself with plenty of questions as you navigate your new place of work. Whether you’re leaving the classroom to enter an office, hospital, school or home health services, find advice for new therapists below.
1. Be Patient With Yourself
Being patient with yourself is one of the most helpful tips for new occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists and other professionals. Like you would in any new profession, you’ll spend time finding your footing.
Remember that mistakes happen, but they help you learn and grow as a new health care provider. Examine those mistakes, learn from them and make changes for next time. The field is ever-changing, and there’s always something new to learn.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
As a therapist, you’ll learn something new with every patient throughout your entire career. While you may not have the solution to a problem right away, there are plenty of therapists who are happy to share their knowledge. Just ask!
3. Join Local, State and National Organizations
Another great tip for new physical therapists, school-based therapists and OTs is to join your local, state and national organizations. Often, you’ll gain unique access to research and other essential documents with these memberships. It’s also vital to know your state laws, and joining a trade organization will help with that.
Try checking out the American Occupational Therapy Association for invaluable information and new grad occupational therapy tips. Similarly, the American Physical Therapy Association has excellent resources for new practitioners, as does the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
4. Connect With a Mentor
Having mentorship in your first few years of practice is another new grad physical therapy tip to improve your clinical and professional skills. In fact, it’s a great idea to have a mentor throughout your entire career. Mentors are an excellent source of support as you navigate the health care system and work through both positive and challenging experiences.
Look for a mentor who poses questions and encourages your growth. Mentors can be in-person, on the phone or even through social media channels.
5. Stay Organized
As you work with different patients and peers each day, find a system that works with you. Find out how other therapists manage their time to craft your schedule.
To stay efficient as possible, use calendars to schedule meetings and appointments. You might also create to-do lists and alarms on your phone to make the process even easier. Save contact information from other professionals the first time you meet them. If you create documents for work, save these exact names so they’re easy to locate later. Staying organized and proactive will help you manage your days easier and alleviate any stress.
6. Document Everything
Ask a peer or mentor for new therapist tips, and they’ll likely tell you that documentation is everything. Documentation is essential for treatment sessions, everyday tasks and conversations. If an incident happens, document it. After a consultation with a teacher or parent, document it.
You’ll be able to view your patient’s progression more efficiently and show supervisors how you spend your time. Try blocking out time to complete documentation. You’ll find it makes your new job as a therapist much more manageable.
7. Network With Your Community
Whether you’re searching for unique fieldwork experience or have already landed a job, networking is beneficial. The communities are close-knit, so knowing more about the person running your local meetings, support groups and local clinics can benefit you immensely.
Keep in touch with your school professors and clinical instructors, as well. Think of these meetings as interviews for a new job — you never know when a practice or school will be seeking a new hire.
8. Draw a Line Between Your Personal and Professional Life
Creating boundaries between your personal life and career is essential. The transition from student to a new health care provider can be overwhelming as you navigate the changes. Practicing self-care and remembering it is OK to say no to extra work is critical. Creating boundaries will help prevent burnout during your first years, and you’ll be optimistic and refreshed to take on each new day.
9. Take Advantage of Training Opportunities
Among the many new therapist tips, taking advantage of training opportunities is a key one to follow. You can learn new strategies and techniques to share with others through training. As a school-based therapist, you might build collaborative teams and alliances within your different campuses to share new information. Through ERI, you can even host your own classes or use the information to take your team to the next level.
10. Advocate for Yourself
It’s important to advocate for your students and especially for yourself. Advocating for yourself as an occupational therapist in a school system can look different. Maybe it’s advocating for the OT staff because you’re behind on treatment sessions. Perhaps you want to push for additional programming at school because you’re noticing a trend of anxiety among students. You might also promote additional training or help on a specific case. Don’t be afraid to be honest about your needs and advocate for yourself every step of the way.
Continue Your Learning With ERI
Taking that first step after graduation can be overwhelming, but when you follow the right advice, you’ll enjoy a smoother, more rewarding experience. When you’re looking for more resources and education, ERI has you covered.
ERI was founded by therapists for therapists to provide more value to your career and standard of care. Learn from internationally renowned instructors to advance your career and build relationships with the community. Our courses and live webinars can also help you improve outcomes for your patients and bolster your team’s morale. Whether you take our courses online or in a classroom, our evidence-based modality will inform and inspire you.
For questions about our program, contact us today.