GCU students go from Project Placement to presentation in Paris

Tue, 02 Nov 2021 16:19:00 GMT
(Pictured above) 4th year Occupational Therapy student Calum Lovett
(Pictured above) 4th year Occupational Therapy student Calum Lovett

A group of Occupational Therapy students are getting the chance to present at a conference in Paris next year, after being involved in an innovative placement during lockdown.  

Six Undergraduate students got the chance to take part in “Project Placement”, a brand new concept which focuses on the transition from working life to retirement. 

Led by GCU Occupational Therapy and Dietetics Department Head Dr Katrina Bannigan, the success of the placement is now being highlighted on the world stage, with the students involved set to present at the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) Conference in August 2022. 

The original idea came in response to the pandemic resulting in physical placements being cancelled - an issue faced by many health students across the UK.   

Final year student Calum Lovett explained more about why he got involved and what the group of students focused on.  

He said: “We had the chance to complete the research placement last year because coronavirus obviously had a big impact on students being able to do their placements in person. There was a lot of uncertainty around other options, so I just decided to go for it. It was the first of its kind, nothing like it had ever been done before. 

Our focus was on individuals who are worried about the journey into retirement or feel that they could maybe do with some extra assistance around how to make it an easier transition for them. Occupational Therapists do a lot of work with transitions in general, and our work can really be with any age group. 

We completed a literature review to see what sort of work had been done before around our topic and if there were any interventions that had been carried out. This then allowed us to identify gaps and showed us how we could move forward and develop a programme. 

Calum added: “We used that knowledge to put together a time-management planner and then put that into an intervention which would run for a course of six weeks. There would also be different sessions with an Occupational Therapist, which would give the patient the chance to discuss how things were going and allow them to fill in the planner. 

The idea is for this manual to be used by future students while on placement, it’s not going to be something that just starts and finishes with us. It will definitely develop further and hopefully eventually become a physical placement that people will get involved with in future. 

Not many students would expect the chance to attend an international conference as a result of their coursework at GCU. Calum was certainly no different, however he jumped at the chance to have their work recognised. 

He said: “Each year Occupational Therapists can submit an abstract of something that they’re working on. Katrina Bannigan suggested we get involved because it was a new approach to placements 

As a group, we wrote an abstract explaining what we’d been doing. It was about 200 words and we sent it off to the WFOT. They get hundreds of applications and have the job of deciding which ones are going to be taken forward to actually be presented at the conference. Ours was luckily accepted!  

Calum added: “I couldn’t have imagined something like this coming up, but I don’t think anyone was expecting a pandemic either - which, in a strange way, obviously led to this opportunity. Submitting this wouldn’t have been something we’d even thought about had it not been for Katrina.” 

With the world beginning to return to normal, Calum is hopeful that he and the other dedicated students involved will be able to attend the conference next summer. Whether this transpires or not remains to be seen, however he insists there are far more benefits from the placement beyond a potential stroll down the Champs-Élysées. 

He explained: “Having the experience of completing a literature review has even helped me in the short term with my Honours Year Project. 

I also think it’s something that’ll stand out on my CV in futureThere’s not many people that will be able to say that they’ve had this experience, especially with Katrina, who’s a world renowned researcher. To have that one on one time with her each week has been invaluable.  

The actual conference will also help us all to stand-out and will be a great opportunity to network and get our names out there! We’re definitely now reaping the rewards, both individually and as a programme. It’ll definitely also put GCU on the Occupational Therapy map! 

By Ross Clark         
Got an SHLS or GSBS story? Email or connect with me on Twitter