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University of Plymouth - working with retired occupational therapists

Hybrid Peer Enhanced e-Placements (PEeP) at the University of Plymouth: Working with local retired occupational therapists.

What was the main aim/problem?

Due to significant challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the occupational therapy (OT) team at the University of Plymouth needed to consider alternative placement solutions in response to a reduction in placement capacity. Building on longstanding success with engagement in role emerging areas of practice and receipt of a successful funding bid through Health Education England the development of this placement model was possible and planned to involve recently retired occupational therapists as supervisors.

What was the solution?

The OT Hybrid PEEP model follows a contemporary collaborative structure, building on the PEEP developed by Dr Lisa Taylor and Dr Gilly Salmon (Taylor, 2020). The OT Hybrid PEEP model utilises peer group learning and also links students with community organisations in emerging areas of practice virtually via ZOOM. Settings included schools, community interest companies and charities. Community organisations provide day to day student supervision, with ‘long-arm’ supervision provided by a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered occupational therapist. Seeking ‘long arm’ supervisors with experience of student supervision in a range of settings was crucial for the success of the placements with an entire cohort of students and this led to employing two recently retired occupational therapists as associate lecturers to undertake the role. One occupational therapist had extensive experience in mental health settings and the other in academia, independent practice and physical settings.

What were the challenges?

  • Being employed as an associate lecturer brought more employment conditions e.g. mandatory training than anticipated.
  • Working virtually on ZOOM and navigating different systems/technology took some time. Due to the virtual and role emerging nature of the placement, it can be challenging to assess students when not seeing them as per traditional placements. Therefore there is a need to liaise closely with the onsite supervisors and to encourage students to share documented evidence of their work from the beginning of the placement.

What were the results?

  • This model of placement provides a valuable CPD opportunity for retired OTs and assists with maintaining professional registration as it facilitates keeping up to date with contemporary areas of practice and supervising students.
  • Students gained experience in placement settings that were varied, and these provided opportunities for intervention and project work. 
  • The retired OTs enjoyed being involved in new and innovative models of delivery, the interactions with the students and other supervisors.
  • The retired OTs valued being able to use experience and knowledge built up throughout a career and feel that this is in turn valued by the students and the university.

What were the learning points?

Flexibility is required at times across the week to observe some students sessions and take part in other meetings. This includes the halfway visit from the university team and making time to complete reports with the onsite supervisor's input.

Ensure peer support is available for ‘long arm’ supervisors as this proved beneficial with the second run of the placements.

Next steps

  • To continue to develop a network of retired occupational therapists interested in supporting placements and healthcare programmes locally.
  • Establish ongoing funding, contracts and payment for the long arm supervisory role well in advance of the placement commencing.

Contact for more information

Please contact Dr Alison Warren in the first instance who can then liaise with colleagues involved in the placement model, Alison.warren@plymouth.ac.uk


Taylor, L. (2020) ‘PEEP: a virtual alternative placement’ OT NEWs p.39