Occupational Therapy OT

| 21 November 2023

The data in this blog is for general informational purposes only and information presented was accurate as of the publication date.

Strengthening Global Occupational Therapy Collaboration: USAHS and WU Foster Knowledge and Cross-Cultural Connection

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Cultural immersion is a cornerstone of transformative education. When we view something from another perspective, we adapt and grow. A study published in the National Library of Medicine (NLM) argues that “by engaging in intentional immersion and guided reflections, participants became aware of the need to reevaluate their perspectives, expectations, and assumptions about self and others.”

Dr. Helen Carey, PhD, MSc Adv OT, OTR, Program Director, OT programs at the St. Augustine, Florida campus at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), is an advocate for collaborative learning.

Dr. Carey says that as soon as it was safe to travel after the pandemic, she went “back home” to the UK to propose a shared, immersive educational experience between the US and the UK. She and Tia Hughes, DrOT, MBA, OTR/L, Associate Dean of the College of Rehabilitative Sciences for Occupational Therapy at USAHS, met with leaders at Wrexham Glyndŵr University (WU), where she was once a faculty member, and forged a strategic partnership between WU and USAHS. “Wrexham hosted us, and we embarked on sorting out this alliance.”

The exchange program is currently for the OT program at the USAHS St. Augustine campus.

Wrexham is a public research university in northeast Wales, with undergraduate and graduate programs in health sciences and more. Dr. Carey noted that the university is highly rated across the UK for broadening access to education.

The faculty experience: Traveling beyond the transfer of information

The first phase of the partnership is for occupational therapy (OT) faculty from WU and USAHS. The idea with the professor exchange is to immerse and also deliver in the education programs of the other country. “The goal is for professors to learn from each other. We can learn from health education delivery in two different health systems in which the two countries operate. We exchange what we do best and also what we need to develop,” Dr. Carey explained.

This September, three professors from Wrexham University, an occupational therapist (OT), a physical therapist (PT) and a simulation specialist, visited USAHS’ St. Augustine campus for a week and participated in an interprofessional education experience.

The UK-based professors delivered sessions for St. Augustine students on topics such as biopsychosocial therapy delivery and neurological therapy. They also partnered with USAHS faculty to share best practices and develop ongoing projects in simulation and motivational interviewing.

Maddy Nicholson, PGLTHE, FHEA, MSc, BSc, Acting Principal Lecturer Post Reg Nursing/Allied Health at Wrexham University, says, “The professorship exchange has sparked some collaborative, innovative research ideas. It was an honor to meet the students and staff. Comparing the similarities and differences in cultures was invaluable. I also appreciated the opportunity to speak about my PhD research on the implementation of motivational interviewing in physiotherapy and gain feedback from a USAHS perspective.”

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What did the UK professors learn at the St. Augustine campus?

One professor studied cadavers and USAHS’ emphasis on applied anatomy. “In the UK, the first term of study focuses on blending the psychological with the physical. The fact that we have cadavers offers anatomical depth, which reflects the more biomechanical model of the US”, Dr. Carey says.

The professors observed USAHS’ focus on using standardized patients for simulation in OT and PT learning at the Center for Innovative Clinical Practice (CICP).

Vivian A. Sanchez, USAHS Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), welcomed the visiting professors and spoke about what they might learn from each other.

Dr. Carey says the US and UK faculty enjoyed and flourished from the immersive experience. “It’s interesting and beneficial for two Western healthcare systems with distinct delivery methods to discover their differences.”

She encouraged participants to explore the broader context of occupational therapy and utilize their newfound knowledge to enhance their instruction.

“It’s the same but different. OT is the same theory worldwide, but how we translate and deliver OT can differ depending on the healthcare system.”

“It was an exceptional learning experience. The quality of teaching during my exchange was excellent, and I am excited about the links we have formed for the future,” Bethan Owen-Booth, MSc, BSc, Senior Lecturer in Occupational Therapy at Wrexham University, says.

The visiting professors were inspired by USAHS students’ eagerness to learn about UK systems and how they can apply learnings to their practice. Dr. Carey says USAHS students always show an intensity and commitment to their learning.

“I was impressed by the drive and the passion that the professors and students displayed regarding their programs. It’s also good to know that both universities experience similar challenges regarding utilizing simulation in a meaningful and effective way with growing cohorts,” Sara Oxbury-Ellis, SFHEA, Senior Lecturer-Clinical Skills, Simulation & Digitalisation at Wrexham University, says. She says this experience has led to a joint project between the two simulation teams. They are exploring how to develop observational skills purposefully to ensure active engagement from as many participants as possible.

In November, three USAHS OT instructors will visit Wrexham University for a week for a similar exchange program.

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The student journey: Preparing to embrace a new perspective

For students, the aim of international collaboration is to learn different viewpoints and develop relationships that span borders.

USAHS is preparing for an OT exchange for St. Augustine campus students in the spring of 2024. Four students from Wrexham will visit USAHS, and four USAHS students will visit the UK-based university, each for a week. USAHS students will apply and describe how they will make the most of the experience and cascade the information.

“It takes humility to venture to understand things in a different way, and you learn more about yourself by looking through the lens of others,” Dr. Carey explains.

She sees this latest experience as a natural progression of a mutually beneficial partnership. The St. Augustine OT program delivers joint sessions between WU and USAHS annually.

The students examine UK and US-based case studies in mixed groups. Synchronized sessions allow both groups of students to gain insight into the occupational therapy context of each country.

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What’s ahead? The boundless potential of the US-UK partnership

Dr. Carey speaks to the unique bond between the US and the UK. “Politically, we often hear about the “special relationship” between our two countries. I feel privileged to be a part of this in occupational therapy.”

Dr. Jarrar advocates that, in our global world, information often gets distorted when delivered by sound bites and quick visuals. “As our universities continue to grow, I see it as an important step to model, for our students, an informed, international perspective of how we can and should practice healthcare. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how teaching and learning are approached differently in the UK and how we may be able to collaborate to strengthen both of our programs.”

“This is just the beginning of a long-term opportunity,” Dr. Carey says. She aspires to continue to build upon the program and fully leverage its potential to promote cross-cultural understanding among faculty and students, transcending geographical boundaries.


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