Factors influencing success and failure in newly-qualified occupational therapists entry into practice.
There is a long-standing shortage of occupational therapists (OT's) in the United
Kingdom. Commentators suggest that this is partly due to the withdrawal of
qualified practitioners, but the contribution to this situation of such therapists'
withdrawal early in their career seems to have been largely ignored to date. This
study explored junior occupational therapists' withdrawal from practice, within one
year of qualification and their likelihood of withdrawing within the following year.
The focus was on the early work experience of 206 newly-qualified British
occupational therapists. It investigated the potential influence of a number of
independent variables which have been associated with the retention, turnover and
attrition of other health care workers. These included workers' age, gender,
occupational stress and trait anxiety levels, as well as a discrepancy between their
expected and actual practice. The study was longitudinal in nature collecting data
from respondents both before, and one year' after, qualification. A range of
purpose-designed questionnaires and a semi-structured interview were used. A
variety of factors were found to be of influence. Respondents' retention in practice
was linked to issues of support, resources, success with clients, job satisfaction, the
desire to make use of and increase their skills and the extent to which work
matched their personal values. Their likelihood of leaving practice within two years
of qualification was associated with both their level of occupational stress, and a
perception that practice had failed to meet their expectations. Respondents'
tumover level was linked to issues of support, autonomy, respondents' desire to
increase their skills, and a perceived discrepancy between their expected and actual
practice. Finally, attrition was linked to this same discrepancy, as well as to issues
of support, autonomy, respondents' health, job dissatisfaction, level of responsibility
and unmet expectations of practice. Those who left practice also noted longstanding
uncertainty about the wisdom and permanence of occupational therapy as
a career. These results provided both fuel for discussion and the opportunity to
make recommendations for future occupational therapy policy, education and