Most of us pediatric therapists work with children that have profound, life-long challenges. Sure, we have those patients that come in for a few months, make great progress, and get discharged – never to be seen again. But those are few and far between. (And seem to be fewer and father between now a days.) We build relationships, we get attached, and we work hard to enrich every aspect of a child’s life. There’s really no avoiding it. (Unless you are made of stone, you monster!)
But that also means things get messy. Lines blur and melt together, which is why it’s so much more than a job. It’s why we burn out, why we cry, and why we find ourselves searching for something else on those really tough days. We might end up moving, changing jobs, or just starting a family. And for those reasons, we might be “replaced” by another therapist.
Having been on both sides of that situation I can tell you, I’m not sure it’s fun either way. So here’s what I’d like to say to the therapist that follows me, and what I’d like to hear as the therapist that follows behind.
-I hope you get to make a connection just as strong as mine was.
Ok, well sort of. This is one of those things that I’d like to hear someone say to me, and is harder for me to say to someone else. Who doesn’t want to hear that they were the “best”? But on the flip side, when you are the therapist following someone else, you just want your chance to shine. With that being said, I hope that you get to chat comfortably, learn about a child’s life, and be welcomed as an important part of a child’s family.
-I hope you hear about me every once and a while, but not too much.
Miss “So-and-so” would always do ____. But, Miss “So-and-so” really wanted her to work on _____. Is that what Miss “So-and-so” would have done?
Yes, it’s annoying to hear what another therapist did while you are trying to do your thing. And it’s hard to try to be someone else when you just have to be true to the way you treat. I would want a family to appreciate and understand what I had done for their child, but also allow another therapist to show who they are and what they can do.
Plus, on the flip side, I hope the family doesn’t speak about their old therapist in a negative tone, either. It’s super awkward when you are the following therapist that hears everything the parent didn’t like about their old OT. It’s a pretty big red flag that they’ll be looking for things to criticize in you, or at the very least, make you feel like you have to avoid any potential similarities you may have with the old therapist.
-I hope you don’t try to prove me wrong, or criticize what I’ve done.
Haven’t you ever found yourself in one of those OT pissing contests with another therapist? Oh, you aren’t certified in Therapeutic Listening? Wait, you don’t precisely adhere to Jean Ayres’ methodology? Haven’t you extensively studied reflex integration yet? It’s exhausting. Why do we do this to each other?
I think/hope it comes from a place of wanting to help a child and family, but it mostly comes off as this crazy OT ego battle. We are probably all guilty of looking at someone else’s paperwork and saying, “Why in the world did they do THAT?” With that being said, you can carve out your own treatment plan in a way that doesn’t minimize or belittle someone else’s work.
-I hope you are given a chance to try your own way.
Come on, OT is a journey with about a million different pathways. My way and your way might not match, but it doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Another therapist is a whole new set of eyes, and a completely different perspective. Sometimes, when you’ve been seeing a child for YEARS, it’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes.
Besides, we all spend our time studying different aspects of our profession, and we bring unique skill sets to the table. When you get a new child on your caseload, you might see something that someone else didn’t, or at least try a new way that might bring even the smallest amount of change. I hope you never feel like you are stuck in someone else’s plan, because no one wins in that scenario.