Pediatric occupational and physical therapists frequently practice independently within the schools and clinics. Unless you work for a large school district or children's hospital, therapists can feel very alone when it comes to having a personal learning community around them. Sure therapists interact with children, parents and teachers but sometimes finding other therapists to bounce ideas off of or get advice from can be hard to come by. If you are a therapist who works independently or even within a large group of other pediatric therapists it is important to build a personal learning network (PLN). This can include of variety of people, resources and mentors.
Here are 5 ways to develop your own PLN:
Find a mentor - Nothing is better than having a mentor to ask questions, discuss a particular client's needs and treatment strategies. When you work alone though this is not always a possibility. One idea is to hire someone to consult with you. You could pay an experienced therapist an hourly wage to answer your questions and provide you with guidance. You could ask the therapist to write up a contract describing the consultation services as a ongoing continuing education course. Ask your employer if they would be willing to reimburse you for the course.
Make contacts at continuing education courses - When you attend professional development courses you are able to network with other therapists that share the same interests that you do. Get email and phone numbers from other professionals so that you can keep in touch after the course to go over different topics.
Follow blogs - There is a large amount of information in the blogosphere. You can keep track of what is posted on blogs that pertain to pediatric therapy in Google Reader. Just click on the RSS feed buttons of the blogs and that will allow you to follow the content in one location. Finding the right blogs can be a slow process. Start out here - you can see many OT blogs at OTBlogs.org on Alltop at the occupational therapy page. For physical therapy check out the Alltop physical therapy page.
Follow Tweets - Twitter can provide you will up to date information on many topics especially assistive technology. There are many experienced professionals on Twitter, who tweet about new technologies on the market or special deals. You can also follow @APTAtweets, @AOTAInc, @YTherapySource and more all on Twitter to get up to date information on research, policy, news stories and more. For more info on Twitter see my previous post entitled Twitter for Therapists.
Join a listserv - There are several listservs sponsored by the APTA and the AOTA. Join the pediatric listservs to see what other therapists are talking about. You can also post all your own questions on the listserv to have other therapists answer.
Anyone want to add any other suggestions on how to build your own personal learning network?