WILMINGTON — 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, yes, 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,” according to 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: certainly schools, hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, but also prisons, sports clinics, neonatal intensive care units and specialty day programs — to name but a few.
“We do everything,” said Hahn in noting sone 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.
WC President Trevor Bates sees the new OT program as further evidence that “Wilmington College is RISING!” to cite the institution’s theme, one manifestation of which is the launch of two new graduate programs during the next academic year.
“We are excited to begin our new Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program in our brand-new facilities designed specifically for OT student learning,” Bates said. “With a focus on rural healthcare, our OT program will ensure future graduates are well-prepared with the in-depth knowledge, hands-on clinical experiences and Quaker-inspired core values to offer high quality healthcare in the communities they will serve.”
The president mentioned the College hired Hahn as not only a professor of occupational therapy and the program director but also as one with “exemplary expertise and success” in developing new programs. A Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) with some 40 years of practice in diverse settings, her students have a long history of high pass rates on the National Certification Exam.
Hahn also is especially 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 added, 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 mentorship program is pretty unique,” Hahn said, noting that, when she started developing WC’s program, she was contacted by rural occupational therapists in the area, “who were so excited about our program.”
Hahn stressed the advantages of graduating occupational therapists with the broad scope of training as generalists. “A therapist needs a diverse education in multiple areas: adults in rehabilitation, children with feeding problems, persons dealing with mental health issues, to name a few.”
Research is another focus of WC’s program, as students will be taught basic research skills in designing projects that result in outcomes that can be disseminated at state and national occupational therapy conferences. “They’ll learn the necessary skills to contribute to the body of knowledge in OT practice,” she added.
The College’s hallmark for providing hands-on learning opportunities dovetails well with the nascent occupational therapy program. Indeed, 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 newly renovated OT space of the Center for Sport Sciences, which is one of the College’s signature facilities. Indeed, American School and University magazine gave its 2016 Citation Award to WC based upon accolades for design, functionality and aesthetics.
“It’s fabulous,” Hahn said about the OT program’s new space, which encompasses the entire ground level. “The large classrooms present the opportunity to do all kinds of training. We can cook and prepare full meals, engage in splinting and wheelchair activities — everything you would do in your normal life, we can simulate here.”
Hahn said occupational therapy programs typically pull applicants from such undergraduate areas as psychology, biology, exercise science, social work, sociology and education. In fact, she’s also seen many teachers and others choose OT for their second careers.
WC’s entry-level master’s program does not require the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) of applicants. Interested persons are encouraged to visit the OT program’s page on WC’s website www.wilmington.edu (see Academics/Graduate Programs); or contact Program Director Dr. Cindy Hahn at 937-481-2226 or email@example.com ; or Associate Director of Admission Danny Harp at 937-481-2357 or firstname.lastname@example.org .