Interview with Lisa Dibsdall 2012 winner of the first COT & Pearson Award

Last year saw us launch the first College of Occupational Therapists (COT) and Pearson Assessment Award for education, research or continuing professional development. As we eagerly await the outcome of this years award, we spoke with 2012 winner Lisa Dibsdall.

Lisa, congratulations on winning the first COT and Pearson Assessment award for education, research, or CPD. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and training?

I am married and have two boys, 8 and 6 years old. I am currently undertaking a PhD degree with the University of the West of England, part time, looking at the role and impact of occupational therapists working in reablement services. I have been an occupational therapist for 11 years. I work part time as a Senior Practitioner Occupational Therapist in social care for Wiltshire Council. I first heard about occupational therapy when I worked in personnel for a mental health care trust, typing job descriptions. I gained a position as an occupational therapy assistant and undertook a part time degree with the University of West of England to become an occupational therapist. Since qualifying I have also gained an MSc in Advanced Occupational Therapy with St Loyes School of Occupational Therapy in Exeter.

What encouraged you to apply for this award?

I am a self funded PhD student. The United Kingdom Occupational Therapy Research Foundation holds events for PhD students; looking at different aspects of research, including funding. The College of Occupational Therapists awards were highlighted at an event I attended. I was attracted to apply for the Pearson Assessment Award as the award was available to fund education, research or continuing professional development. I applied for the award to fund a course run by Bristol University.

Which course did you attend?

I attended a five day course on the Design and Analysis of Randomised Controlled Trials.

Can you tell us about your course and how it helped you?

The course covered all aspects of clinical trials in a comprehensive way. I am evaluating randomised controlled trials as part of my literature review and the sessions covering statistics and the analysis of results have enabled me to evaluate results more confidently. The attendees on the course were from around the world working in different fields with a varied experience of working on randomised controlled trials. Hearing from attendees on the course helped me to start to identify how randomised controlled trials could be utilised in social care. On the final day we were split into groups to design a randomised controlled trial on a given topic. This exercise helped to consolidate all the information learnt during the week and highlight the need for team work. It also confirmed to me that being a statistician is not a job for me!

What outcomes were you looking to achieve?

I had two main outcomes I was looking to achieve by attending the course. The first concerned my own PhD study. My PhD study is using a case study approach to analyse the role of occupational therapists in reablement services. Throughout the course the importance of including qualitative data collection both during randomised controlled trials and prior to a trial to inform a trial, was highlighted. Attending the course has helped me meet my outcome of shaping the design of my study so that the results may be used to inform a potential post doctorate randomised controlled trial in reablement services.

My second outcome was to increase my knowledge of randomised controlled trials and to be able to apply that knowledge to the social care field. Research in social care, whilst increasing, still lags behind research in the health care field. As a senior practitioner I encourage evidence based practice and would like to see more research taking place in Local Authorities. This includes audits of the effectiveness of services to increase the research available on occupational therapy in social care. Attending the course has increased my confidence in working with quantitative statistics to be able to complete small scale evaluations within my current role.

What's next now you've completed the course?

I am currently completing the literature review for my PhD degree. I am just about to commence collecting data for my study and hope to complete my PhD degree in July 2015.

And finally, what would you say to other people considering applying for this award?

I would really encourage occupational therapists to apply for this award. There are useful courses available to support research and continuing professional development. Many of these courses cost a considerable amount of money. Obtaining this award enabled me to attend a course that otherwise I would not have been able to attend. Completing the application form was a useful exercise in helping me to identify how the course would support my research training needs.

I was delighted to be the first winner of the Pearson Assessment Award. I would like to thank Pearson again for supporting occupational therapists to develop in our profession.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Lisa, we're pleased this award helped support your course and look forward to hearing more about your PhD studies in future.