By Wendy Campbell:
It’s May and graduation is in the air on the UofT campus – proud parents gathering round to aim their phones at newly minted engineers and nurses. The 2019 class in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy needs to wait until November though to complete the 24 continuous months of classes and internships required to begin their careers.
The profile of my own class that I did recently was written about an era familiar to me, with a birds-eye view and a pocket full of memories. We’re all defined by our surroundings and I can’t help wondering how these young people will look back in sixty years…will they find a description of them and their time as quaint as we did?
As I begin to write about the current students, the program’s name change is the first thing that strikes me. Adding Occupational Science following the advance to a Masters degree in 2000 reflects a broadened curriculum with an increased emphasis on research. This will clear it up for the more distant alumni who have been asking, confusing it with OSOT, the provincial professional association in Ontario
Although many things about the world of rehabilitation have changed, when I asked members of the current class about what had drawn them to study occupational therapy, their answers were strikingly similar to the thoughts of my generation. They were attracted to the practical approaches used to help people acquire skills to live fulfilling and successful lives, regaining or maintaining function. They wanted to use a holistic approach with opportunities for one-on-one contact with patients and they were looking for opportunities to be creative and work in diversified settings with different ages and conditions.
This group is older than my cohort, having obtained an undergraduate degree before entering the program. It includes males as well as females and reflects Canada’s ethnic diversity. And, of course, they grew up in a digital age, using the internet for research… and other more recreational things. Assignments are submitted typed and printed, or online – their professors must be glad not to have to decipher eighty sets of handwriting.
OT offers excellent opportunities to work in a wide range of fields in different parts of the world. Many members of this year’s class had a chance to taste some of these possibilities during their internships, traveling the globe for their clinical experience: 8 of them went to Trinidad, 5 to the Philippines, 4 to Tanzania, 2 to Kenya and one each to Holland and Australia. Imagine the adventures they had, and the rich experiences to take to their future professional and personal lives!
While many of my classmates married and only began to practice years later when children were at school, members of this class have definite plans for after graduation and completing the registration exam. Competition for places in the program is intense and the time, energy and financial investment in achieving the Masters degree in OT are much more formidable now. Current graduates are intent on beginning careers and feel an open optimism about possibilities for the future. Their interests for future practice span both physical and mental health and all disabilities and ages. Among their specific interests are spinal cord rehab, early intervention with psychosis, accessibility, chronic pain and sport.
An aging population, the changing nature of work and an increasing awareness and attention to mental health all present challenges to occupational therapy. Worldwide “isms” have affected how occupation is defined; feminism, globalism and terrorism all change the way we live and work. Members of this class of future occupational therapists are well placed to enter that world and make a difference.
Those of us who’ve gone ahead are proud to have them stand on our shoulders; they’re in the home stretch now and we wish them luck and look forward to welcoming them to our ranks.