A Warm Welcome to our Newly Qualified AHP Practitioners

Carolyn McDonald.
Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (Scotland)

As the new academic year is now well under way for students, I wanted to take this opportunity to welcome our new AHP graduates who are about to or have already started, their careers in NHS Scotland.

The pandemic brought new and complex challenges to all involved in AHP education over the past 2 years – students, academic staff and practice educators alike. From virtual teaching and alternative assessments to novel ideas and models of Practice Based Learning.

It has required flexibility, resilience, innovation, creativity, teamwork and leadership from everyone – all essential attributes for an Allied Health Professional.

Whilst your university experience may not have been quite as you expected your dedication and resilience has paid off and you are ready to start your career with a host of knowledge, skills and experiences that has prepared you for the exciting career journey that lies ahead. Your career will now broaden your learning and connections, you will forge new friendships and you will make a difference to the people you serve each and every day.

I always look forward to the fresh perspective that students and new graduates bring to the workplace. You have already had success in getting your first role as a registered practitioner and this is your opportunity to shine and bring forward your unique perspective to innovate and inspire others, developing your knowledge and skills as you grow.

Getting to know your immediate team is important for sure but I would suggest you also get to know your wider organisation and external stakeholders that your colleagues around you link up with. These linkages will play a vital role in your professional life.

You will have a qualification in one of the allied health professions but as well as being part of your professional group, you are also part of the wider AHP family and we all welcome you.

So who are the AHPs anyway and how do you fit in?

Collectively in Scotland we make up the third largest of the healthcare workforce after nurses and doctors. There are about 12,000 of us from across 14 different professional groups: art therapists, dramatherapists, music therapists, podiatrists, dietitians, occupational therapists, prosthetists and orthotists, paramedics, orthoptists, physiotherapists, diagnostic radiographers, therapeutic radiographers, speech and language therapists.

Through the breadth of our skill set and our reach across health and social care, housing, education, voluntary and independent sectors we assess, diagnose, treat and discharge people working collaboratively to enable those who need our services to live their lives to the full at home, in education and at work and this year we celebrate our 21st birthday in Scotland as an AHP family.

As Chief Allied Health Professions Officer in the Scottish Government and as the most senior professional advisor for AHPs I provide expert advice to Scottish Ministers, the Director General for Health and Social Care, the Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Medical Officer and various other directorates on matters pertaining to AHPs and how we can influence and assist in shaping policy. There are a number of AHP advisors who work with me in Scottish Government and who also link with external stakeholders relevant to their specific policy areas.

Easing into the life of the Newly Qualified Practitioner (NQP)

At some point we have all been the newbie and being new to an organisation might seem a bit daunting but nobody expects you to be perfect. For me as a young AHP starting off my career, supervision was really important. I was in a new country, in a big acute hospital, away from home and family and starting off a career in a city I had never worked in – all very scary!

The overall intention of supervision is to improve professional self through lifelong learning, improve professional practice and to feel, and be supported as a member of staff.

As AHP leaders we felt it was important to have a position statement on supervision and so Scotland’s Position Statement on supervision for Allied Health Professions (2018) was developed; it states that all AHP practitioners, irrespective of their level of practice or experience, should have access to, and be prepared to make constructive use of supervision.

The Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) sees supervision as an essential aspect to continuing professional development and plays a key part in ensuring good practice and high-quality care.

So ask about this in your place of work and use supervision to develop and be supported on your professional journey.

Each Health Board in Scotland has an AHP Director so find out who they are and understand their role. I meet with them every month as well as the professional bodies in Scotland and their chief executives; I also link with the Higher Education Institutions and the regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council.

Although you have chosen one of the allied health professions as your career like I did, I would encourage you, in time, to get some leadership experience outside your own area, to link with a range of stakeholders in order to gain confidence in a variety of settings and develop yourself as a clinical leader. It will add strength to your skillset whether you remain in your chosen profession or move into AHP leadership or other roles in the future.

Leaders across the Allied Health Professions come from all the different professional groups which gives us great strength from our pooled intellectual assets and a wealth of ideas and innovation and we are making a difference across the country.

So congratulations and welcome to your career as an AHP and I hope that you are joining in the celebrations of National AHP Day on 14th October!

You are one of us now and you will bring a new perspective that will help us all grow. I hope our paths meet when I am out and about on visits and I look forward to welcoming you in person if I can.


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