Those touring the newly completed occupational therapy level in Wilmington College’s Center for Sport Sciences will notice spacious classrooms, multiple offices, conference rooms, a sunny lounge area, a full kitchen lab and a simulated apartment — complete with a bed, washer/dryer and full bathroom.
The college is launching its latest graduate-level program in January 2022. The Master of Science program in occupational therapy is a 27-month, entry-level graduate program for which persons with any bachelor’s degree could be eligible.
The kitchen and apartment laboratories are the new facility’s most visual representation of what an occupational therapist does — assist persons in engaging or re-engaging in the occupations of daily life, often following an injury or illness. But there’s so much more to occupational therapy, which represents one of the fastest-growing health care fields.
“OT practitioners work with every population, age group and condition in building the necessary skills to live and participate fully in their daily lives,” said Dr. Cindy Hahn, professor and OT program director. “We help them learn to do the things they need to do and want to do.”
Hahn claims most people don’t realize the diversity of services and scope of venues involving the practice of occupational therapy.
The gamut of therapy services ranges from aquatics, cardiac care and hand therapy to driving rehabilitation, addressing issues of sexual dysfunction, agricultural therapy, burn care and sensory integration. The practice of OT covers a myriad of arenas: schools, hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, but also prisons, sports clinics, neonatal intensive care units and specialty day programs — to name a few.
“We do everything,” said Hahn in noting some of the advantages of the college’s training of OT “generalists” is that program graduates can join the workforce immediately and there’s always the opportunity to obtain specialty certifications. For example, Hahn has a traumatic brain injury certification as an occupational therapist.
Hahn also is excited that a distinguishing factor of WC’s program is its rural health care focus. She claims graduates possessing this training are highly sought after.
“There is a huge demand for occupational therapists in rural areas,” she said, noting that compared to OT practitioners in hospitals and other settings that might offer support from other staff members, practicing in rural settings presents occupational therapists with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. “We want to graduate students that are prepared to meet the needs in rural areas.”
As a means for enhancing new occupational therapists’ indoctrination into working in rural settings, the college will offer its graduates a year of mentorship from members of its OT Advisory Board, who have committed their support. These are practicing occupational therapists in Ohio who are contracted to assist emerging OTs with mentoring and support as they face new and demanding issues in their early days of professional practice.
The college’s hallmark for providing hands-on learning opportunities dovetails well with the occupational therapy program. After five semesters featuring a blend of classroom and experiential learning, students’ final two terms are comprised exclusively of off-campus fieldwork.
Alex Ingram is the program’s academic field coordinator. She joined the profession as a means for “making a difference in someone’s life.” Ingram will teach courses in addition to securing and managing all fieldwork experiences. She will also support the program in developing and arranging for a variety of community-based experiences throughout the curriculum.
Courses and learning labs in WC’s Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program will fill four full days of classes each week, with one additional day available for community experiences and other activities. Classes will be taught in the OT space of the Center for Sport Sciences.
Submitted by Randall Sarvis, senior director of public relations, Wilmington College.