Generic working within mental health

Working in a generic role has endless arguments for and against it, with many journal articles being written about the matter. Ultimately, the organization that employ you will dictate whether or not you work generically, but it doesn’t stop you from reflecting on the issues and opportunities along with how you come to terms with your point of view, especially if it conflicts with your workplace agenda. To do this, I’ll write two sections that are for and against generic working in the hope that it inspires some further reflection around the topic.

For generic working:

When working with clients, they have an array of needs that don’t fit neatly into one profession, and to engage better with that client group it’s helpful to have a broader skill base which is what generic working can do. There are various medication management needs, complex social systems to understand and psychological interventions that are shared amongst the team to better service the consumer. Along with this, by having generic roles, it is easier to progress up the career ladder as particular leadership roles may have previously only been open to specific professions. Along with this, more job opportunities could become available as roles are generic and possibly cheaper than having profession specific roles along with balancing an equal mix of disciplines.

Against generic working:

When generic working, the main focus of your role is to complete generic tasks, with profession specific work being in the background. It doesn’t mean you cannot complete your profession specific interventions, however, for the service it’s not a priority. This means that you have less practice at working at the profession you trained to do and become an expert in completing generic tasks such as mental state examinations and managing risk. This results in the generic clinician being great at doing non-profession specific tasks and can still talk about their profession. But do they have the confidence to feel they can still complete the interventions which they originally trained to do. Not only this, a loss of professional identity means a fragmentation of professional teams as you’re no longer an Occupational Therapist or Social Worker, you’re just a mental health clinician and the dominant profession in your workplace (usually medical and nursing) have control over how you work and dictate the future direction of the workplace. The other disappointing aspect to generic working is that consumers miss out on what you studied to do. Essentially, they view you as a case manager or mental health clinician and don’t even understand what your background profession is or why they would want to tap into it. Not only does all of this contribute to a lack of job satisfaction, it deskills the individual clinician at completing profession specific interventions and quite possibly abandoning their chosen profession for another or just becoming complacent and remaining a generic clinician with no real self-development in the area they were originally wanting to study towards.

So that’s the for and against argument regarding generic working. Regardless of where you sit with this topic, I find the best way to stay invigorated and connected to my profession, regardless of workplace agenda, is to attend conferences and other network events where you can immerse yourself. And if all that fails, then maybe it’s time to register a business number and run your own private practice where you can work in a way that fits with your own values and way of working.

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