My name is David Hughes and I work as a wheelchair therapist at Warrington Wheelchair Service. In 2011, at the age of 48, I qualified as an OT.
I have worked in wheelchair services for three years, part-time initially, and full-time for the past 12 months. Most of my learning and development has taken place in the workplace, supported by my very experienced colleagues. I have also attended various product updates and training events hosted by companies we deal with.
I feel that my knowledge and skills, along with my roles and responsibilities, have developed significantly over this short period of time as a wheelchair therapist. However, I have also discovered that the more I learn, the more I realise how much more there is to learn! Thankfully, I have found that there are many very experienced people working in the field, who are enthusiastic and happy to share their wealth of knowledge. Often, however, the difficulty is finding a training event that is both close enough to attend, and possible to fit in around a busy work schedule. This is why I found the PMG Conference 2016 such a fantastic learning opportunity. So much expert knowledge and experience in one place, with ample time to absorb some of it. Notice I said “some of it”? The wealth of knowledge and information is mind blowing!
With most of the major companies exhibiting, I had the opportunity to investigate and compare products, and to consider cases for which these products might work well. Walking around the exhibition hall with colleagues from other wheelchair services allowed us to discuss case examples, and share our experiences of many of the products. I found pooling our knowledge, experiences and opinions of the various products in this way to be very useful, as it was like conducting a mini product review. I believe this new appreciation of the pros and cons of various pieces of equipment will prove very helpful to my practice when considering using a product for the first time.
I cannot emphasise enough the value of the networking at the event. The speed networking learning sessions were a very good introduction to the whole conference experience. They were a great ice breaker, and provided an opportunity to speak to other professionals that I otherwise may not have spoken to. Not only did I gain valuable new information and knowledge, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that I, too, had useful experiences and knowledge to impart to others.
The networking continued throughout, and particularly worth mentioning is the Gala Dinner. Some might view this as a good excuse for a “jolly” (and it was very jolly!), but for me the experience was also valuable from a self-confidence point of view, particularly when speaking about my role. At our table of ten, I only knew three people. However, we all introduced ourselves and were soon sharing information about our roles and experiences. I discovered that two of the others in the group were also fairly new to wheelchairs. We discussed various issues and I relayed how I might address them - information which they found valuable.
All in all, I would recommend the PMG Conference as a very good learning opportunity. Thanks to all at PMG who put so much effort into organising this excellent event.
Photo above is of the 2016 Gala Dinner, courtesy of photographer Suzie Hunt.