Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More supervisor stories

Ok before I about another supervisor horror story I thought I might remind others out there that I actually have to write about these topics in my "Collaboration and Consultation" tutorial and in order to pass a section of the paper I have to provide personal reflection from any medium. And whatever past issues I talk about, I know my peers will most likely write about what I say too and their feelings about it.

So please dont shoot me if you think this blog is getting too negative. I only have to do two more stories then I'll talk about other stuff.

The second story I will talk about is from a class mate of mine, who told us of the relationship she had with her supervisor in her first placement. The setting was an acute neurology ward and her supervisor was a new grad male OT.
Her supervisor specifically said to her in the first week that she was only expected to observe - nothing more.
The student knowing she was inexperienced readily agreed. However, when she went up on the the ward with him later on to do an initial interview, she felt uncomfortable about a few things.
Firstly, when the patient was in bed, the supervisor before doing anything else pulled the curtains around and allowed the student to come in and watch.
After not introducing the student to the patient the student at this point instantly noticed the worried/upset facial expression on the patients face and explained that she was an OT student and that she was here to observe if that was alright with her.
The patient relaxed and allowed this, however the student's supervisor asked the student to step outside the ward with him and talk.
They went to a private room where he allegedly said "I am so pissed off at you right now!!" using aggressive body language. He discussed his extreme disappointment in the student in not following what they had agreed on. The student didnt say much due to shock (and wanting to cry) and being inexperienced and not wanting to cause a rift with her supervisor apologised and returned back to the office without him. Afterwards the student said that their relationship was somewhat strained. The supervisor didnt apologise for yelling at her, and although the student related this incidence onto a trusted student peer who encouraged her to talk to either her supervisor or someone more superior about the issue - she didnt. After a while, the students emotions were mixed. She felt she had still done nothing wrong and that he was being unfair but at the same time was highly embarrassed by the events and due to her insight into her minimal experience wondered if he was right or if there was something polytech had forgotten to teach her, or something else that influenced the experience that she should have known about.

When my classmate finished relating this story we then delved deeper in with our questions.
(While trying not to give her advice).

I remember asking her
Due to your improved placement experiences, if you had that same experience again how would you have handled it differently?

The student replied that she would have stood up for herself more with her supervisor. She now believes that she did nothing wrong and that she was actually using good initiative by noticing the clients stress and acting on it positively for the patients benefit. She also added that further on the the placement she noticed a few negative personality traits and learning styles of her supervisor which clashed with her own. This she feels backed up her belief that he was being very unprofessional with her by speaking aggressively to her and making her want to cry. And also disregarding the patients basic need for communication (which she also witnessed him doing more than once).
The teacher then replied that she would have been fully in her right to lay a complaint against him for his behavious toward him even if she was in the wrong.

Another student asked her - Do you think the planning for you observing a client with your supervisor was clear?

The student replied, at the time yes. But by the look of the way we both handled it, it was obvious that we didnt communicate fully our expectations. She related that she didnt realise then that introducing herself to a client was an important exception she had to make with her supervisor but said that she felt it was irrational for her supervisor to assume without asking her that she was expected not to say literally anything to patients. She said she felt that, given a ward was a very unprivate setting and that some acutely ill patients would reject a student without proper explanation, she felt it was her responsibility to reassure and gain the patients consent.

My thoughts

I completely empathised with the predicament my classmate went through and fully understood her initial fear and worry of causing more serious issues with her supervisor. As a first year we know full well of how much we dont know and that we place our full trust in our supervisor 99% of the time (unless you're an extremely brainy and assertive 1st year). I agreed with her statements fully and felt that even though she was in the majority of the right she still took accountability for the situation. I think that as a first year, if issues like that crop up, sometimes not knowing how to respond are normal. The fear and worry I think is again normal for that phase in our personal growth and growth as an OT student.
Personally, when I was a first year I was very assertive (not arrogant) and I remember regularly standing up for myself against peers and even a past supervisor. But I consider, that this student was not the same first year as I was. I do not know what her underlying temperament at that point in time. Maybe she considered herself confident but out of shock of the verbal abuse she received she closed up. Finally, I agreed with the student when she said that knowing how to treat others and being aware of their perceptions and attitudes is not just important for client relationships but student-supervisor relationships as well.

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