Debora A. Davidson, PhD, OTR/L, Clinical Occupational Therapy Editor

Debora A. Davidson, PhD, OTR/L, Clinical Occupational Therapy Editor

Last month, I had the good fortune to attend the National American Occupational Therapy Association Conference in San Diego. What a lovely city and a terrific conference. As I mingled with more than 5,000 of my colleagues, I was struck by the breadth of what occupational therapists are interested in learning about, and the depth of practitioners’ knowledge and skill. The combined knowledge of the OTs attending that kind of an event is awesome, and I could sense the excitement as people talked, laughed and shared with one another.

Novice, intermediate and experienced therapists all seek new ideas, knowledge and skills to help improve their practices — and because we are just plain curious. As we participate in a class or reading, each of us receives and interprets the information uniquely with reference to our own backgrounds and methods of learning. A green practitioner often is eager to learn how to do things and will pull very practical hands-on information from a learning experience. A more experienced therapist attending the same continuing education session will compare the information with past experiences and knowledge, which can be affirming, additive or challenging. An expert in the field considers how the material is being organized and presented, and considers new ways to educate others or research the topics at hand. While the information may not be all that new to each learner, the way it is presented can ignite new associations and ideas for future clinical application and development of scholarship.

The (perhaps) sad news is that, the more we gain expertise in an areas of practice, the harder it is to find continuing education that surprises us and provides novelty. The good news is that occupational therapy is a huge profession, with such a vast array of relevant topics (think topics as varied as handwriting, driving and spirituality), that you could regularly explore different specialty areas and never run out of new terrain. Or you could really plumb the depths of a single specialty area and combine the discoveries being made in many fields to develop novel concepts of your own. It’s all good!

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