Occupational Science/Therapy

Students: Sarah VanAsseldonk and Mallory Cole
Supervisors: Helene Polatajko and Jane Davis
Background and purpose: Although it has been in use for over 100 years, the name “occupational therapy” does not adequately reflect the profession’s full scope. The present study explores the perspectives of the lay public and occupational therapists on the meaning of the name occupational therapy, and how it shapes the discoverability of the profession. Methods: A mixed methods study was undertaken through a survey with the lay public, on two separate platforms, and qualitative interviews with occupational therapists. Data were analyzed using a descriptive interpretive design and descriptive statistics. Findings: Four common themes emerged from the interview and survey data:  “what’s in a name”, “what’s in the name”, “what is occupational therapy”, and “what is the understanding of occupational therapy”, as well as three concepts: context, preconceptions, and power, and one underlying process of discoverability. Implications: Findings suggest that the name does not adequately communicate the scope and role of occupational therapists, therefore creating a gap where potential service users are unaware of the profession and its’ services.

Students: Crystal Chan and Lois Lee
Supervisor: Jane Davis
Introduction: Occupational therapy contributes to global health by enabling people with the right to access meaningful and purposeful occupations as a determinant of health and quality of life. Occupational engagement is highly integrated with the environment and has a direct implication on current and future access through the way resources are managed and consumed. In 2012, the World Federation of Occupational Therapists released a position statement on sustainability and sustainable practice, acknowledging the world’s environmental sustainability crisis and the impact of global climate change. Rationale: Occupational therapists have been urged to support practice change through increased awareness within the field (Dennis et al., 2015). However, research exploring sustainability within occupational therapy practice is limited and there is a lack of literature regarding Canadian occupational therapy practice. Objective: This study examined perspectives of Canadian occupational therapists on addressing social, environmental, and economic sustainability in personal and professional life. Methods: This cross-sectional exploratory study used a survey with a combination of 29 open and closed ended questions to understand the perspectives of Canadian occupational therapists. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and content analysis, as well as the transtheoretical model of change to capture the stage of readiness for change. Findings: Occupational therapists have some understanding and interest for sustainability issues, and recognize barriers to change for uptake in daily life. Although practitioners report to be actively applying concepts of sustainability in their personal lives, there is an expressed need for more concrete ways through education and resources to incorporate sustainability into practice. Conclusions: Canadian occupational therapists are in the preparation stage of change towards sustainable practice. There is a need for further exploration into realistic targets of change and feasible methods of incorporating sustainability into Canadian occupational therapy practice.

Students: Natalie Zizzo and Elizabeth Cruchley
Supervisor: Kevin Reel
Background: Identifying and understanding ethical issues faced by Canadian OTs is important for addressing these issues and developing ethics education. There is currently no comprehensive understanding of what ethical issues Canadian OTs encounter in everyday practice. Purpose: This research study aims to describe the ethical issues Canadian OTs experience in specific practice areas and service types, as well as their prevalence. Methods: A quantitative cross-sectional anonymous online survey was distributed to Canadian OTs. The survey assessed demographics, types of ethical issues encountered, and in which practice contexts they occurred. Open-ended questions asked respondents to describe the ethical issues they encountered. Findings: Out of 147 respondents, more than 50% indicated they had experienced specific issues across a variety of practice areas and service types. Implications: Future research is needed to determine the statistical significance of certain ethical issues. Results of this study can be used within ethics education and professional development.

Students: Stephanie Chu and Ani Davtyan
Supervisor: Kevin Reel
Introduction: Healthcare professionals (HCPs) including physicians, nurses or allied health professionals are often involved in evaluating patients’ decision-making capacity. However, the quality of the capacity evaluation process is suboptimal, as some HCPs were found to be incompetent to perform the evaluation (Appelbaum, 2007). This raises concerns as to whether healthcare programs are adequately preparing students to be capacity evaluators. Yet, research on curriculum contents is currently lacking. Given the serious implications capacity evaluations have on patients, more research is needed on the curriculum and the extent of preparation they provided to students. Objectives: This study explored the content of the capacity evaluation curriculum offered by various healthcare programs across Ontario. Methods: Quantitative curriculum data were collected through an online survey that was disseminated to faculty members of healthcare programs across Ontario, including medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech-language pathology, social work, audiology, and clinical psychology. Results: Several shortcomings of the current capacity evaluation education were identified, such as less than ideal teaching methods, very few teaching hours and the lack of well-rounded content. Practice Implications: Findings can provide insight into the training provided by healthcare programs in Ontario, which is an important responsibility for HCPs, including occupational therapists. Conclusion: Findings indicated that students likely are not getting the most optimal level of capacity evaluation education, which can negatively impact their competence in evaluating capacity as entry level clinicians. However, the findings of this study are not conclusive due to the low response rate and more relevant research in the future is needed.