The current healthcare system in the United States is very complex and constantly undergoing scrutiny and revisions in response to the demand and feedback from consumers, governmental agencies, and third party payers. Pressure to increase the infusion of rapidly advancing modern technology, decrease cost, provide services guided by evidence, and increase life quality and patient outcomes in our health care operations are becoming everyday headlines in the media. Occupational therapy is an integral part of this health care system. Advocacy, evidence based practice, and belief in core professional philosophy are essential elements for a successful delivery of professional practice. Today it is vital to our clients as well as to our profession, that occupational therapy graduates are flexible, autonomous, broadly educated generalists, scholars, and leaders. The graduates must be able to use creative and critical thinking, as well as clinical reasoning with great effectiveness and efficiency. These factors, along with the mission of the institution, were guiding principles in the development of the OT curriculum at Georgia State. The curriculum is designed in a planned progression to build upon and develop knowledge and skills at increasing levels of complexity, competence and integration through the course of the program.
The occupational therapy masters (OT/M) curriculum is sequenced for the study of occupational behavior across the life span, therapeutic interventions to support occupational participation, professional skills, values and behaviors, and models of research and evidence-based practice. Understanding the complexities of occupation and how occupation can be used in assessments and interventions are fundamental aspects of the curriculum. Scholastic inquiry of occupation is woven through the curriculum and is paramount to the understanding of the complexities of occupation. Another fundamental component of the curriculum is the structure of the learning experiences based on adult learning theories to enhance the students’ development of the necessary skills for thinking, self-reflection and reasoning as a therapist. The curriculum sequence includes six identifiable threads:
- Foundational Knowledge – Reflects broad areas of study (i.e. social, behavioral, biological and physical sciences, education and contemporary society) which serve as foundations to the basic premises of occupational therapy.
- Understanding the rich complexities of occupation (Individual, Family, Community, Society) – Addresses the reciprocal influence of lifespan development on areas of occupation and the health & wellness/illness continua. Focus is given to understanding the interdependent relationship between one’s ability or inability to engage in occupation, and participation in life.
- Using Occupation as a basis of assessment and intervention: – Focuses on the influence of factors such as: performance skills, performance patterns, context, activity demands and client factors on occupational performance. At this stage previously constructed knowledge is organized and applied to occupational therapy assessment and interventions throughout the life span. Influence of technology on occupational assessment and intervention are also applied.
- Investigating occupation by integrating science and therapy – Focuses on developing research and scholarship skills as well as clinical reasoning skills to practice as an evidence based therapist.
- Applying knowledge to Practice – Applies problem solving skills to assorted clinical contexts for the application of knowledge and skills in diversified environments.
- Advocacy, Leadership and Cultural Competency – Instills acceptance of self as a professional with recognition of concomitant responsibilities, duties and rewards. Integrates the end process of the development of a professional and beginning of professional development a culturally competent occupational therapist who can advocate for and lead the profession.
The sequence of the OT curriculum allows the students to construct their knowledge and skills at increasing levels of complexity, competence and synthesis. As the students’ progress through the program, it is the goal of the faculty that they will achieve transformative learning. The focus of all of the courses is human occupation, occupation’s relationship to development, the impact along the wellness-illness continuum on occupational performance, and the occupational therapy process as defined in the OT Practice Framework, for the purpose of enabling individuals to fulfill occupational roles to their fullest potential. Learning activities shape the student’s holistic understanding of the relationship between occupation and occupational performance including the areas of daily living, work or productive activities, as well as, play and leisure. Ethical, scientific, historical, socio-cultural, political and economic factors provide a foundation and ongoing perspective in the education process. As represented in the Curricular Sequence and Flow Document (attached), the Foundational and Occupation Focused courses provide general knowledge about occupational development, performance and disruptions, professional values and behaviors and the process of practice, and research in occupational therapy practice. While the Using Occupation as a Basis for Assessment and Intervention and Applying Knowledge to Practice courses progress to more specific detail about the relationship of occupational dysfunction to social participation. Throughout the curriculum, students learn about devising and implementing interventions that relate to deficits in occupational participation amongst individuals of all ages and from a broad range of cultural, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic diversity.
Students participate in Level I Fieldwork experiences and accompanying FW seminars associated with each didactic semester in order to apply theory and knowledge learned in the classroom to clinical and community settings. As the semesters progress, the students take a series of courses designed to provide the fundamentals of clinical and scientific reasoning and research methodology that are relevant to the practice of occupational therapy. These courses culminate in research projects, meta-analyses or systematic reviews of occupational therapy practice areas, conducted under the supervision of occupational therapy faculty. As a final project, students present their findings in the form of a research report or professional presentation to their university colleagues.
Students in the OT/M program also participate in two inter-professional courses focusing on management, leadership and healthcare service delivery. Both courses have specific discipline content to address the standards of practice specific to occupational therapy. Students also have the opportunity to take elective graduate courses designed for special interest or that are relevant to their research project. Example courses might include special topics in motor control/motor learning, sensory integration, or policy analysis.
The final component of the OT/M program consists of 6 months (24 weeks) of Level II Fieldwork experiences during which time students apply knowledge gained in academic courses to clinical settings with the goal of becoming competent, entry level, generalist OT practitioners. The Level II Fieldwork experiences are carried out in two different clinical settings under the supervision of occupational therapy clinical educators.
Specifically, students will apply:
- occupational knowledge
- professional ethics, standards, and values
- effective therapeutic relationships
- knowledge of the context of service delivery
- principles of management and systems
- evidence-based practice to promote participation in meaningful and culturally relevant occupations