Background/aim: The transition from classroom to clinical practice is a necessary and challenging journey for occupational therapy students. In recent years, worldwide trends in occupational therapy education are moving towards graduate-entry in professional preparation courses. Little is known about the journey experienced by these graduates when they enter practice. This qualitative study aimed to explore the lived experience of these graduates in their transition from student to practitioner within first six months of practice.
Methods: A phenomenological approach was adopted for this study. Using purposive sampling, eight participants from a recent graduate cohort of the Master of Occupational Therapy from the University of Sydney were recruited. Data was collected via in-depth, face-to-face interviews. The focus of inquiry was on the experience of transition. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed and analysed thematically. Member checking and consensus coding were conducted to increase trustworthiness of the study.
Results: Four themes emerged from the interview data. The themes were (i) valuing maturity; (ii) being new; (iii) needing skills; and (iv) pursuing satisfaction. Participants described metaphors about their experience across and within these themes.
Conclusions: Recognising the experience of transition from student to practitioner has the potential to assist university staff in the development of the educational curriculum. Understanding this transition can also help employers and therapists in providing adequate support and supervision for new graduates. Furthermore, awareness of the transition experience allows students to better prepare themselves for their own transition to practice.
© 2011 The Authors. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal © 2011 Australian Association of Occupational Therapists.