Blog post

Placement brings new clarity on inclusion and wellbeing

By: Foluso Williams, Lynnette Magenga, Manisha Ghai, and Tina Brown.

A role emerging placement is when students go into work environments where their profession has never been before and carve out a role for themselves. This blog details how four Occupational Therapy students did this within the Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing team and contributed hugely to the University's wellbeing agenda.

By Sarah Barley-McMullen - 5 January 2021

There's nothing more powerful than falling in love with your chosen profession then doing the work. We are four final year Occupational Therapy (OT) students who are carrying out a virtual placement, in the Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing (EDIW) team at the University of Derby.

When we were first on placement, we wondered how Occupational Therapy linked with EDIW. We were used to being placed in traditional settings such as hospitals, schools, councils, communities, and so on. As this is a non-traditional placement, it has further developed our professional identity and has reinforced applying our theory into practice.

Our occupational lens has never been more visible as it is now. Our aim has continued to ensure that occupations associated with the activities of daily living, remains at the heart of all that we do.

Occupational Therapists (OTs) work with individuals who have gone through trauma, are living with a disability or are recovering. We help them perform purposeful daily activities and meaningful ones (or 'occupations' as OTs call them). Working within the EDIW team has allowed us to work with a large population and the whole community of the University of Derby instead of an individual within a community.

As OTs, we use our knowledge of what is vital to individuals to develop a recovery plan to improve health and wellbeing. We make sure their needs are at the centre of all our plans, and their wellbeing is paramount in all our processes. Both the OT and the EDIW team values align to promote equality, diversity, inclusion, and wellbeing throughout the culture and environment of the University.

The EDIW team has legal duty to support people working within the organisation, who have several characteristics protected by law. For example, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual plus (LGBT+), race equality, gender equality, disability, wellbeing, faith and belief. This has offered us the opportunity to put the Code of Ethics, that we follow into practice.

We have had the chance to undertake various projects which aim to offer equal access to services without bias or prejudice based on age, gender, race, nationality, faith, sexual orientation, level of ability, or position in society.

We have done this through a variety of different projects which have included, writing a range of guidance documents for staff which aim to raise greater awareness around issues such as menopause and neurodiversity, a project which focusses on generating a greater cultural understanding of mental health issues for Black and Minority Ethnic students and a project focusing on improving the mental wellbeing of staff during Covid-19.

The benefits of taking on a role emerging placement

The skills we have learned throughout our degree course has really helped us to help people in a wider context.

Although demanding and challenging to start with, a lot of which was because the placement is virtual, we feel we have improved our caseload management in preparation for being in the workplace.

We have also learnt how important networking is within an organisation as we have had to work under tight deadlines which is important for employability.


Not only have we learnt how to do our job from a community perspective, we have learnt how to do it in the most challenging of times, and we have experienced for ourselves the impact of sitting stationary and working remotely which has left us with aches and pains.

The essences of managing a work/life balance and being present for both has been difficult as we've had to work in our homes it has been hard to escape this and switch off at times.

As students learning the art of negotiation and standing firm with our professional values while working collaboratively with the wider multi-disciplinary team, provides its own challenges that we did not foresee.

Embracing the new norm

As we have been remote working on a role emerging placement, we have found working in the new area of EDIW quite daunting, especially as it has been something we have not done before. But, as we are living in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, it appears that this will be the new norm for most of us.

These are some tips we recommend and would like to bring forward to future OT students partaking a role emerging placement:

1. Create a routine for yourself and try to stick to it

Stick to placement hours and try to not work beyond this - remember to take regular breaks!

"Occupational balance is key to preventing burnout"

2. Stay connected

Check in everyday with your educator, coordinator and team members if appropriate to the placement you are on.

3. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Remember, no question is a silly one!

4. Join in extracurricular events

Extracurricular activities provide wonderful learning opportunities, a great addition to your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) portfolio and make a very good reflection!

5. Keep a track of your achievements

It is very helpful to keep a weekly log of your achievements so that you can use as evidence but also have something to discuss in supervision. Remember your supervisor only sees you once a week so supervision is a chance to demonstrate what you have learnt.

6. Create a good workspace

Remember you will be in your workspace for most of the day, so make sure it is comfortable with sufficient lighting and space to work.

7. Most importantly, remember that your wellbeing is central to all that you do!

About the author

Sarah Barley-McMullen in the atrium at the Kedleston Road campus.

Sarah Barley-McMullen
Former Diversity and Inclusion Lead

Sarah was the Academic Lead for Inclusion in EDIW, the Programme Lead and Senior Lecturer for BA (Hons) Youth Work and Community Development and BA (Hons) Working with Young People and Communities. She was also Chair of the LGBTQ+Allies Staff Network and a Change Champion for the University.