Moving Abroad to Work as an Occupational Therapist

Hi All! I am Jena, you may know me as the social media lead of SPOT Europe. I have just finished my pre-registration master’s at the University of Derby in England. I moved from Canada to complete my master’s and was exited to return home after 2 years away from amazing maple syrup, my family and friends, and views like this!

However, in the transition of moving home I have learned LOADS about moving abroad to work as an OT. While some of it is Canada specific, it can all be transferred to other countries.

MY TOP TIPS FOR MOVING ABROAD AS AN OT

1. Check what immigration policies are like for OTs 

This is easily the most boring part of the process. But, before you go through the process of applying for jobs and talking with employers make sure you will be able to move to this country and work! This is particularly important if you plan to move out of the European Union. It stinks to feel like you’ve wasted time and a dream on moving to a country that immigrating to is really hard or impossible!

2. Check the WFOT certification

Some countries require that all OTs attend a WFOT certified school, some need more, and some do not require WFOT certification. Find out what certifications the programme you attended have and if they are compatible with the country that you wish to migrate to. You can check all of those things here: https://www.wfot.org/programmes/education/wfot-approved-education-programmes .

3. Read the OT regulating body’s webpage AND CONTACT THEM

Almost every country has a group that makes sure OTs working in that country are properly trained. If you are interested in moving to a country, just google that country and occupational therapy/ergotherapie. I read the Canadian OT’s webpage on internationally educated occupational therapists over and over. However, I still got far more information when I e-mailed the representative. She was able to discuss with me things like what I could do prior to graduation to best prepare myself for working in Canada. She also gave me a few tips and tricks for the application process that were so helpful! It can be tempting to do things online, but speaking with a person involved is so helpful!

4. Be Prepared

After making sure you have a full understanding of what you need to do to get a license to practice OT in your new country, make sure you are ready to do all the steps that are required. Some preparation may be required. For example, in Canada and the USA you need to write a national exam and it is important to be ready for this to do well and pass!

5. Make a Budget and Start Saving!

Everyone’s migration will be different, so take a good look at your circumstances and make a budget. Will you need to move into an apartment before you get your first pay cheque? Do you need to pay to write an exam? Will you need to pay for a visa? How much will a plane cost? What about transporting all of your things to your new home? All of these things cost money and although it’s not a lot of fun, it will make you feel much better once you have arrived in your new home! Plus allocate some money to do fun things in your new home!!

6. Be Patient or Be Flexible

Some countries will be easy to immigrate to and work as an OT, some will be more complicated and take more time. If you are set on a location that takes a little while, be patient. Follow all the steps as best you can. If you’re like me and you’re not patient be prepared to be flexible. Either be flexible about your location and pick a different country to explore while you wait. Or be flexible about your job! Sometimes OT assistant jobs or jobs in a related field can be just as rewarding and will allow you to explore and live in a new country with less paper work! It’s up to you which route you want to go, but recognize that you will need to be patient or flexible.

7. Discover and Sell Your International Self!

Although it can be scary to apply for jobs in another country remember that you are bringing something unique and hard to come by! Use SPOT or another OT Facebook group to connect with OTs from the country you are hoping to immigrate to. Use these resources to highlight the differences and what potentially unique perspectives or ideas you can introduce to a service. Show how being an international OT will ADD to a service and its users! There are loads of conferences and online forums to help you get a good grasp on international OT and make informed choices!

Upcoming International Activities in Amsterdam!

COHEHRE event: November 4th-6th

“THE ETHICS IN BUILDING
SUSTAINABLE RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS IN EDUCATION”

Check out the Cohere Academy which facilitates international conversation amongst several health care students! It’s a great time to swap ideas and get a feel for what OT may look like in other countries! Check it out here: http://www.cohehre.com/index.php/calendar/.

International Mobility Week: November 6th-8th

Another opportunity is the International Mobility week. This weeks theme is looking at marginalised groups in a range of settings! Find out more here: http://www.cohehre.com/index.php/event/1235/ or stay updated on our Facebook page!

My international fieldwork placement in Trois-Rivières, Canada

Hi everyone, Maurane’s speaking ! Today I’m going to tell you about this amazing experience I’ve had last year : my international occupational therapy fieldwork placement in Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada.

When ?

I’ve been there from May, 5th to July, 18th, 2017, as a 2nd year OT student. For 8 weeks I’ve had an awesome placement, and then I spent 10 days road-tripping across Quebec.

Where ?

I was in Trois-Rivières, Canada, a French-speaking city. My placement took place in the local teaching hospital, especially in family medicine, pneumology, orthopaedic, urology, gastroenterology and vascular surgery departments, mainly with elderly people. Both of my supervisors were referent for several of the following departments, but they were attached to the rehabilitation department.

Why ?

I wanted to step out of my comfort zone experiencing something new, far from my country, my culture and my habits. I also wanted to get to know another way to provide occupational therapy services, especially in North America, OT birthplace.

What ?

I learned so many things ! On an individual level and of course professionally, this placement really impressed me. I feel this was the first time I really felt as an OT.

Personal development

Stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing totally new stuffs alone was much rewarding. Indeed I had no choice but to cope with any situations in everyday life by my own. I’ve had issues with lodging in the first week I was there. I’ve had to move from my place, thus I had to look for another place to live. I managed this by my own, without my parents assisting me, and it went well ! Then I was pretty proud and I feel more confident now as I know that I’m able to manage this kind of situations by my own.

Moreover I met awesome people there. I took the time to get to know them and their culture, I discovered a way of life I didn’t know before, which got me think about my own philosophy and lifestyle. Even if they speak French and live in a western culture, I felt differences in people’s behaviors and values. In general terms I felt they were much optimistic about life ! I also met people coming from all over the world travelling during week ends. I became less afraid to start a conversation with people I don’t know, which is also an advantage in professional practice !

Professional development

I’ve had to adapt to a brand new health care system, professional environment, and culture in a short period of time. First, I gained confidence in my adaptative skills as I’ve had no troubles accommodating to this unfamiliar environment. Secondly I learnt working with great rigor. My supervisors were more demanding than I’ve had ever experience in France, especially about professional writings. I learnt to use accurate terms when forwarding information to other professionals, in both oral and written form. During this placement I also felt that OT practice was more evidence based than it is in France, as research is also way more fertile. Thus I understood the importance of developing research in OT in France as it’s essential to expand and enhance our practice.

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Standing in front of the Cogeco Auditorium in Trois-Rivières.

I would never recommend you enough to travel and experience unfamiliar fieldwork placement settings !

Feel free to react and ask me any question you may have.

Email : blogger@spoteurope.eu // Twitter : @maurane_ctr