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Tomas Flanagan, Occupational Therapist
Tomás Flanagan is an Occupational Therapist working for St Michael's House. Following his Leaving Certificate, he studied Occupational Therapy in Trinity College Dublin where he found the educational placements of particular relevance. Following graduation he got an opportunity to work with children with Autism for a year which was very challenging but offered a great learning experience.
In school we had to choose our Leaving Cert subjects just before the Junior Cert. At this stage I had no idea what I wanted to do as a profession but I knew I wanted to go to College.
In order to keep my options open I chose a mix of subjects to include one language, one science subject and one business subject. In addition to the obligatory English, Irish & Maths I therefore studied French, Biology, Geography & Accounting. I chose these particular subjects as I had an interest in them at Junior Cert level.
I suppose Biology was the most relevant of my subjects when I started college as there was some overlap with Anatomy and Physiology. We also studied research and statistics in college which were Maths related.
I completed my Leaving cert. in 1999 and my first choice on the CEO form was Occupational Therapy. Luckily I received enough points for the course.
I studied Occupational Therapy in Trinity College Dublin. This was the only Occupational Therapy course in the Rep. of Ireland at the time. This was a four year course. The majority of the first two years was taken up with the academic and theory based modules. Third and forth year had many of the fieldwork education placements. These are placements of about 9 weeks each in various OT settings e.g. mental health, intellectual disability, community and hospitals. It is in these placements that you get to apply your theory and really learn about the work of an OT.
Since graduating in 2003 I have attended numerous courses. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is an important aspect of the job. You are constantly learning and developing your skills as a therapist.
I found the fieldwork education placements the most beneficial part of the Occupational Therapy course. As part of the degree you must complete 1000 hours of placements that are arranged through the College. The 1000 hours must include a mix of mental health and physical rehab placements.
This was a great opportunity to work alongside trained Occupational Therapists and to learn from them. It also lets you sample Occupational Therapy in a variety of settings with a mix of clients. This can help you decide which setting may be best suited to you.
For one of my placements I spent ten weeks working in a child and adolescent mental health setting. Up to this point I had never worked with children within an OT context. This placement was a real eye opener for me and had a strong influence on my career to date.
Since graduating from College I have attended a number of courses to develop skills in specific areas. These have included courses on handwriting, posture & seating and sensory integration. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is vital for keeping your skills up to date as OT is a dynamic profession.
I hope to continue to attend professional courses to further develop my skills. In particular I would be interested in undergoing additional sensory integration training as this is an area of particular interest to me and it is relevant to my current caseload.
In the future there is the option of undertaking a Masters in Occupational Therapy or a Masters in Intellectual Disability. This is something I might be interested in doing in due course.