AOTA Conference: Day 1 buzz

Submitted by Andrew Brown on Fri, 27/04/2012 - 17:42

Fiona Fraser, our Education Manager: Student Services, and also a part-time post graduate MSc student, has travelled to the American Occupational Therapy Association  Annual Conference in Indianapolis to take advantage of some fanastic CPD opportunities and see how things work stateside. Fiona will be reporting back regularly on her experiences, you can read her preview here and follow up here, while here's her latest update.

Fiona Fraser

I stared writing this when I got back to my room at about 8.30pm.  The words were flowing but they just didn’t seem to do the day justice, so I thought a night's sleep would aid some form of coherent review of the first day of conference. 

We have probably all been to an event where there is tangible ‘buzz’ in the air.  I have often said we don’t have to work to hard to generate this sort of feeling when you have a 3 or 4 OT students and OTs in a room. Therefore, I can assure you 6,000 American OTs and students generate a great deal of buzz!  I decided during the opening session yesterday, that this buzz is really the manifestation of the passion and pride we have for our profession.  I naturally felt very privileged to be able to witness and be part of all this buzz.  

Before I let the office I promised my colleagues I would not send in reports that chart my every move. Fiona got up. Fiona had breakfast etc. Listing my various sessions seems a little like this so instead I’m opting just to provide some brief highlights.  

International Session 

This session focused on the World Report on Disability and also provided an insight into the work of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists as the main speaker was Sharon Brintnll, the president of WFOT. 

Stand out quote:  “Occupation is the focus – strip it down, go back to basics.  That is what makes the difference”

When referring to how useful it is to have written standards and guidance from organisations like WFOT she described them as ‘paper tigers’ i.e. very strong and powerful.  I like this analogy!  

Recommended reading:  

Realities and Myths of the COTA Examination 

A session totally geared towards current students who will soon be taking this exam.  Facilitated by someone from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, it provided some really useful insights into the exam and hints on how to prepare.  A fascinating insight into practice questions candidates might have to answer – there are 200 questions in the exam.  I introduced myself to the speaker afterwards and have made plans to speak some more about UK graduates taking the test.  Watch this space!

Current Trends in Accreditation and Higher Education

I am pleased my schedule includes lunch with the main speaker from this session as I left the room with so many questions.  To say the OT education systems in the UK and US are different would be an understatement!  However, we also have some similarities too – more placements required is one example.  

A catch up with @BillWong

Having used Twitter for quite some time (@COTstudents) before I left for the conference I made arrangements through Twitter to meet Bill Wong.  An OT student from the University of Southern Californian.  Although we experienced the classic “virtual world into real world’ problem of actually locating each other it was great to put a face to a name.  It was even more impressive that we have a whole host of mutual contacts – UK students and lecturers that Bill has made links with via social media.  The world isn’t just getting smaller – it is absolutely tiny.  

Welcome ceremony and keynote address

I wasn’t fully orientated to where I should be for this session, so as I approached a new part of the conference centre I thought to myself that it appeared quite a large room. Yet another understatement! The room was massive and gradually filling up with just short of 6,000 OTs, OT students, OT assistants and OT assistant students (more on that another time). It wasn’t until afterwards when I realised that the number of delegates at this event equates to the number of OT students in the UK at the moment!  

No words can fully capture the welcome ceremony – dancing, chapping, and cheering!  Throw in a bit of Lady Gaga and Glee and you probably start to get the picture. You might like to Google Joseph F Coughlin – an amazing speaker and got us all thinking about redefining the act of aging.  When I have a moment I’ll be Googling!   

Expo Grand Opening and Reception

Seemingly as large as a football field and full of people and exhibitors!  High volumes of freebies on offer allowing delegates to do the standard ‘pens and post-it-tour’.  Alas, my colleagues will be rather disappointed with me as the limited space in my suitcase will only really allow for a couple of pens.  I spoke to four OT students from North Carolina – 1st year students and therefore their first time at conference.  They were really interested to hear about mental health OT practice in the UK, as the opportunities here in the US to work in mental health are fair less developed.  

Just a few highlights!  Many, many more to follow!

You can follow Fiona's experiences at the AOTA Conference here on our news pages, and through her twitter feed @COTStudents. If this has made you keen to get involved in the conference vibe, find out about our Annual Conference in Glasgow, June 12-14.