SPOT’s new blogger and the somewhat ancient history of OT in Greece.

Greetings everyone! I am Emmanouela (or Emma for short) and from now on I will be the new SPOT blogger!

A little bit of information for me

I was born and raised in Athens, Greece and I am currently studying Occupational Therapy as a second year student at Metropolitan College in Athens. I hadn’t heard of SPOTeurope before the workshop about internalisation, that took place at the premises of Metropolitan College at Marousi Campus. It was then that, I knew I had to get involved. This experience in combination with my volunteering experience at the annual ENOTHE conference made me realise that I want to communicate more with OT students from all over Europe and expand my view of the “occupational world”!

Communication

You can contact me via the blogger’s email: blogger@spoteurope.eu , or via Instagram: Kanetakh.e!

Contact me whenever you want to talk about occupational therapy, share your story or experiences, share OT related information or current projects you or your university/college are working on etc. You can always become a guest blogger and with my help we can share your thoughts and experiences on our website! I will be more than happy if you joined me on this journey!

Historical preview of OT in Greece

Lena Surrou Kostaki

Besides getting to know me, this month’s blog includes and insight view of Occupational Therapy in Greece. I firmly believe that in order to approach a subject holistically one has not only to look for modern facts, but also to take a look in the past. The hidden history behind OT in Greece is intertwined, till this day, to the 1st Greek occupational therapist’s professional course. One of the greatest names of OT in Greece is the name of Lena Surrou Kostaki’s.

Asclepius

Before revealing any more information about her contribution to OT, I would like to take a moment and highlight that some of the first people who used “occupations” as a mean of therapy were Asclepius in 700 BC, who used music, singing and physical exercise as a treatment for psychological patients, Hippocrates around the 4th century BC, who had a humanitarian approach which included kindness, politeness and arts as well, and Asclepiads, a doctor and physiologist, around the 1st century BC, who established the humanitarian treatment for psychological patients using therapeutic baths, massage, exercise and music. Even though these mindsets didn’t last long we can see that they were a great first start for the foundation of Occupational Therapy.

So, a long time after these statements and theories took place, around the 1950s’ Mrs. Kostaki began her journey and remarkable work. Looking back in one of her speeches, she gave away a lot of information about this remarkable and hard-to-achieve start of OT in Greece. She once narrated the first ever actions to have taken place in Greece, which were volunteering OT services organised by O’Caffrey to rehabilitate handicapped former soldiers. These services took place in some military hospitals of Athens, in psychiatric hospitals, in sanatoriums for people affected from tuberculosis etc. These structures were staffed with volunteers from the Greek Red Cross. As she has declared, the first certificated occupational therapist in Greece was Mrs. Roula Gregoriadou who was also volunteering for the Red Cross in one of its hospitals. Later on, in 1954 the rehabilitation centre for handicapped kids at Voula (PIKPA- ΠΙΚΠΑ) was founded. Right after this foundation both Mrs. Kostaki and Mrs. Gregoriadou trained the second and third generation of volunteers in OT, who were sisters in the Red Cross (in 1956-57 and 1960-61 respectively).

Mrs. Sofia Anesti
Mrs. Lena Kostaki
Mrs. Anna Deligiani

Another key reference point has always been the year 1955 when the World Health Organisation sent an occupational therapist in Greece to check on the institutions there. The general secretary of the Health and Provision ministry organised a meeting and included Mrs. Kostaki as a translator. This opportunity given to her meant the start of the first steps for the creation of a school solely for Occupational Therapy, despite the public opinion of creating one school for both occupational therapy and physiotherapy. It took almost 22 years when in 1977 Mrs. Kostaki created the first department of Occupational Therapy in a technological Educational Institute and with Mrs. Sofia Anesti and Mrs. Anna Deligiani they were the first ones to staff it. Almost 3 years later Mrs. Sofia Anesti was nominated to represent Greece in COTEC and Mrs. Kostaki was her spokeswoman. Finally another great achievement was noted when Mrs. Kostaki made it in ENOTHE, when it was first founded, as a member of the board of directors. To recapitulate, even though the first signs of use of occupations as treatments were spotted a couple of centuries BC the official start in Greece began with Mrs. Kostaki and a lot of other remarkable OT’s back in the 1950s’.

Modern perspective and evolution of OT: An insight view

The progress in the field is constant and moving rapidly as the years pass so it’s high time I highlighted more about how far OT has come in the last few decades. Now moving forward to some modern facts regarding OT in Greece, I didn’t do any research because I thought the best way to transmit this knowledge to you is by sharing personal experiences from OT students from Greece. Having carefully read and examined their answers to some questions asked I have summed up a conclusion and added some more general knowledge.

General information

Generally, in Greece, occupational therapists need to have specialised education in order to work in specialised centres such as neurological, psychological, paediatric, geriatric and centres for displaced people. The latter one is only recently developing in Greece since, unfortunately, almost 60.000 displaced people are located all over the country but this is also highlighted as a great emerging aspect of OT in Greece. One interesting and important fact about OT revolving around the labor market is that there is zero unemployment rate at the moment, meaning that once an OT degree holder tries to find a suitable work place, he or she will find one quickly and work on his or hers already grounded knowledge. However the progress in the field of occupational therapy in Greece has been great over the past few decades there is still enough room for improvement. For example, 50% of the country’s occupational therapists are using the top down approach and only the other half is using the bottom up one. This leads to services where clients receive less personalised treatment. This is one of the most important aspect of OT in Greece that we, younger occupational therapists and practitioners, should work on.

Student’s perspective

Metropolitan College, Campus, Marousi

Representatives from almost every year answered some questions asked about their experiences as students from the Metropolitan College, which I put together so you can have a comprehensive idea of how it is like being an OT student from Greece! So here are the questions and answers given:

What’s the reason behind choosing to study as an OT student?

Some of the most common reasons to choose OT as a profession amongst students is the diversity of opportunities provided and the uniqueness of it! A couple of other students also mentioned that the opportunity to help clients rebuilt their lives is a fulfilling experience and one you want to be a part of! Lately, as the rapid evolution of OT is clearly noticeable in Greece, as well as everywhere else, students are more intrigued to be involved in than they would want for any other profession. And, last but not least, there is a wide field of expertise regarding OT so the opportunities revolving around the labor market are almost endless, which makes it another great option, the students state.

How did you learn about Occupational Therapy?

Most of the students had heard about it at school and it “seemed an interesting profession” so they searched more information and watched youtube videos for it and they became even more interested! Some of them, though, mentioned they had seen occupational therapists work, due to incidents in their families, and were particularly keen on learning more and ultimately being involved. Lastly, there was one student who mentioned about a beloved member of the family who was an occupational therapist that made them even more familiar with the profession and affected their decision!

How did you learn about SPOTeurope

Despite not being globally known yet, Greek students are quite familiar with it! Most of them got to learn about it and meet the student board in person during the workshop and the annual ENOTHE conference which took place in Greece earlier this fall. Besides that, a lot of other students got in contact with their lecturers and tutors who informed them about the SPOT and its action plan! Last but not least there were few reports regarding the Media and especially Facebook, one of the three platforms the SPOT’s Social Media Lead [Emma] is currently spreading the word on!

What do you think about the campus’ facilities and the e-platform?

The campus’ facilities are consisted of spacious rooms for classes, modern equipment such as computers, projectors and specially modified items (suitable for work-alike stimulations) and a library with hundreds of books of every profession, beautifully constructed to inspire to you to study!

The e-platform is fully functional and quite helpful for studying because it provides you with easy to access and neatly organised folders for every class. It also enables an easier and less time consuming way for communication between both students and tutors. Plus the students, even if they are absent, they can always download the lectures and not miss them. A student also pointed out that handing over papers on the e-platform not only saves us more time but it is more definately user and environmentally friendly.

What do you think about the curriculum and what is your favourite subject and why?

The curriculum is remarkable and provides strong theoretical foundations which enable an OT student to become a knowledgeable, experienced and qualified occupational therapist. It also provides us with the ability to work abroad as a qualified OT. Moreover a valid point everybody mentioned was the existence of 4 practice placements which provide a holistic approach and view of OT (clinical reasoning, assessment tools, theoretical frame of reference etc.).

 I hope you enjoyed this informative blog and I look forward to talking to you soon!

Kind regards,

Emmanouela!

Moving Abroad to Work as an Occupational Therapist

Hi All! I am Jena, you may know me as the social media lead of SPOT Europe. I have just finished my pre-registration master’s at the University of Derby in England. I moved from Canada to complete my master’s and was exited to return home after 2 years away from amazing maple syrup, my family and friends, and views like this!

However, in the transition of moving home I have learned LOADS about moving abroad to work as an OT. While some of it is Canada specific, it can all be transferred to other countries.

MY TOP TIPS FOR MOVING ABROAD AS AN OT

1. Check what immigration policies are like for OTs 

This is easily the most boring part of the process. But, before you go through the process of applying for jobs and talking with employers make sure you will be able to move to this country and work! This is particularly important if you plan to move out of the European Union. It stinks to feel like you’ve wasted time and a dream on moving to a country that immigrating to is really hard or impossible!

2. Check the WFOT certification

Some countries require that all OTs attend a WFOT certified school, some need more, and some do not require WFOT certification. Find out what certifications the programme you attended have and if they are compatible with the country that you wish to migrate to. You can check all of those things here: https://www.wfot.org/programmes/education/wfot-approved-education-programmes .

3. Read the OT regulating body’s webpage AND CONTACT THEM

Almost every country has a group that makes sure OTs working in that country are properly trained. If you are interested in moving to a country, just google that country and occupational therapy/ergotherapie. I read the Canadian OT’s webpage on internationally educated occupational therapists over and over. However, I still got far more information when I e-mailed the representative. She was able to discuss with me things like what I could do prior to graduation to best prepare myself for working in Canada. She also gave me a few tips and tricks for the application process that were so helpful! It can be tempting to do things online, but speaking with a person involved is so helpful!

4. Be Prepared

After making sure you have a full understanding of what you need to do to get a license to practice OT in your new country, make sure you are ready to do all the steps that are required. Some preparation may be required. For example, in Canada and the USA you need to write a national exam and it is important to be ready for this to do well and pass!

5. Make a Budget and Start Saving!

Everyone’s migration will be different, so take a good look at your circumstances and make a budget. Will you need to move into an apartment before you get your first pay cheque? Do you need to pay to write an exam? Will you need to pay for a visa? How much will a plane cost? What about transporting all of your things to your new home? All of these things cost money and although it’s not a lot of fun, it will make you feel much better once you have arrived in your new home! Plus allocate some money to do fun things in your new home!!

6. Be Patient or Be Flexible

Some countries will be easy to immigrate to and work as an OT, some will be more complicated and take more time. If you are set on a location that takes a little while, be patient. Follow all the steps as best you can. If you’re like me and you’re not patient be prepared to be flexible. Either be flexible about your location and pick a different country to explore while you wait. Or be flexible about your job! Sometimes OT assistant jobs or jobs in a related field can be just as rewarding and will allow you to explore and live in a new country with less paper work! It’s up to you which route you want to go, but recognize that you will need to be patient or flexible.

7. Discover and Sell Your International Self!

Although it can be scary to apply for jobs in another country remember that you are bringing something unique and hard to come by! Use SPOT or another OT Facebook group to connect with OTs from the country you are hoping to immigrate to. Use these resources to highlight the differences and what potentially unique perspectives or ideas you can introduce to a service. Show how being an international OT will ADD to a service and its users! There are loads of conferences and online forums to help you get a good grasp on international OT and make informed choices!

Upcoming International Activities in Amsterdam!

COHEHRE event: November 4th-6th

“THE ETHICS IN BUILDING
SUSTAINABLE RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS IN EDUCATION”

Check out the Cohere Academy which facilitates international conversation amongst several health care students! It’s a great time to swap ideas and get a feel for what OT may look like in other countries! Check it out here: http://www.cohehre.com/index.php/calendar/.

International Mobility Week: November 6th-8th

Another opportunity is the International Mobility week. This weeks theme is looking at marginalised groups in a range of settings! Find out more here: http://www.cohehre.com/index.php/event/1235/ or stay updated on our Facebook page!

End Of Academic Year!

This will be SPOTeurope’s last blog before the summer and we want to wish you all a great break! Congrats to those of you who are graduating and good luck if you’re about to start 2nd, 3rdor 4thyear! 

This post will feature an update on the Joint International Project and some tips for surviving the summer break!

UPDATE: Joint International Project on Health Promotion and Self-Management (JIP)

Introduction what’s JIP?

During March a JIP meeting was once again held in Winterthur, Switzerland. The Joint International Project on Health Promotion and Self-Management, short JIP, was initiated in 2012 and officially started at an international meeting hosted by the HAN University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. One year later the Occupational Therapy departments of the fhg – University of Applied Sciences Tyrol in Innsbruck, Austria, the ZHAW in Winterthur, Switzerland and the HAN University of Applied Sciences in Nijmegen, started a pilot where it was possible for students from all three institutions to work together on a joint project. The idea was to promote more international activities and possibilities for working together, particularly as far as students’ involvement is concerned. During annual meetings students now have the opportunity to relate their BSc Thesis, MSc Project work or thesis to get in contact and exchange knowledge with students from international institutions.  

Participant experience 1: Leonie from the Netherlands

My name is Leonie and I’m a 22-year-old OT student in my 8th semester at the Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen (University of Applied Science) in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. I and 4 other students from Nijmegen were joining the Joint International Project in Winterthur, Switzerland in March 2019. It was a pleasure to be allowed to network with other international OT-students and docents from other universities. Through this project I learned a lot about how OT is organized in other countries, how other students learn and think about OT but also that we’re all the same in how we love our profession. The discussions during my time in Winterthur really helped me form my professional identity as an OT and made me feel like an international OT. Moreover, I learned a lot about my own qualities professionally and personally, but also about my interest in research. I made a lot of new contacts, this will help me form my future as an OT. I really appreciated the experience and would really recommend everyone that they have to join this project!

Participant experience 2: Verena from Austria

My name is Verena and I´m a 23-year-old Austrian student. I´m studying OT in my 6th semester at the University of Applied Sciences Tyrol, Innsbruck. Including me, two Masters students and two Bachelors students from our university were joining the JIP meeting in March 2019 in Winterthur. Besides a lot of international OT- networking with students and staff from several European universities, there was room to work on our own research projects. Once more I had the opportunity to experience the power of OT- peer support and professional exchange. The JIP contributed to gain more understanding and structure for my own Bachelor thesis. Moreover, becoming part of the international OT- community really helped in strengthening my occupational identity. So don´t miss the chance and enjoy the OT- flow!

OT related tips for summer!

We all know how important occupational balance is so it’s essential that we remember to balance ourselves too! So take the chance over the holidays to develop some non-Occupational Therapy related hobbies! After all an OT degree can mean a busy schedule with placement, studies and additional work and family responsibilities! 

Or, if you do want to do some OT related activities over the summer than check out some of the resources & tips we’ve provided below:

  • Watch a series or movie that includes an OT related topic- As OT is so varied there should be something for everyone! A few we can recommend include:

-The Intouchables (2011)
– The Intouchables (2011)
– A Beautiful Mind (2001)
– A mile in his shoes (2011)
– Mid-August Lunch (2008)
– Its Kind of a funny story (2010)
– Temple Grandin (2010)
– The dark Horse (2014)
– Still Mine (2012)
– One dat at a time (Netflix)
– Aytipical (Netflix)

  • Search for some volunteering or shadowing work if you’ve not had much experience of the sector yet
  • Try to source cheaper OT books from graduating students who no longer need them
  • Get connected on social media, its much easier to come across interesting research topics and new ideas when you’re not trying to look for them!
  • Share some of your activities with us- The summer break is a great time to reflect on your studies, placements and any additional events that have influenced your OT journeys
  • Plan a MINISPOT at your university- Our new ‘How-To’ guide to get started with your own MINISPOT is online and ready to use!
  • Consider if you want to be part of SPOTeurope board. Since part of our board has graduated, upcoming months we will be busy with recruiting new members. Stay tuned!!!

The board of SPOTeurope wishes you all a wonderful summer holiday, may it be filled with fun, drinks, vacations and lots of other things so you are able to start fresh again in september.

Have a good summer break! 😀

Occupational Therapy in a Driving Assessment Centre

Hi, I’m Natalie, the SPOTeurope blogger and this week I’ll share with you my first placement experience! I have just finished my first year at Worcester University in the UK, where we have five placements over three years of study. This placement was part time 2.5 days a week for 10 weeks, with lectures and seminars the other 2 days of the week. 

What is a Regional Driving Assessment Centre?

The Regional Driving Assessment Centre (RDAC) is a charity that provides driving and access assessments for anyone looking to maintain or regain their independence with driving. I was able to get involved with assessments both at the Head Office in Birmingham, and at two outreach centres in Worcester and Leamington Spa. 

Driving is an essential occupation for many people and when it is lost it can prevent us from being independent and doing some of the activities we enjoy! Occupational Therapists have an important role working with Approved Driving Advisors (ADA’s) to enable people to drive comfortably and safely.

What is the driving assessment process?

The process begins with an initial interview to find out more about the clients situation and how it is affecting their driving. If appropriate, paper based cognitive tests will be completed and any available adaptations (such as hand controls) may be tested in the centre before the in-car assessment.

Next a practical on-road driving assessment will take place, and both the Occupational Therapist and the Approved Driving Advisor will observe the drive and discuss the safest outcome in the best interests of the client. This may include recommendations to retire from driving or to continue practicing driving, with or without adaptations to maintain or develop existing skills. In either case, practical advice will be given to allow the client to retain their independence safely and for as long as possible.

The image below shows the basic steps in the process, although this appears simple, finding driving solutions specific to each individual made every day slightly different.

Some of you may recognise these images from my ‘Day in the Life’ on SPOTeurope’s Instagram! If you haven’t seen them check them out @SPOTeurope!

*Thanks to all at RDAC for permission to use the photos*

What adaptations are available?

Hand controls and steering aids were the most commonly recommended adaptation throughout my placement. These included a steering ball, push pull hand brake & accelerator, under ring and Lodgesons wireless keypad control. These were commonly used for clients with limited or no movement in their lower limbs, and also clients with limited upper limb movement for example post stroke. Less common hand controls I was able to see on assessments included a joystick control and a mini steering wheel.

There were other adaptations including left foot accelerators, easy release handbrakes and swivel chairs to aid in vehicle transfers.

Luckily I had a couple of chances to try some adaptations myself, this was challenging as I am not usually a confident driver! But looking back I can really see how it helped me to appreciate how difficult it can be for someone to adjust to a new way of driving in order to retain their independence.


What other services are there?

At my placement I had the chance to observe different types of assessments and discovered services that I wasn’t aware existed! These included:

  • A Car Seat Clinic: Here, different child car seats would be at hand for the client to try and the one with the best seating position would be recommended.  
  • A Tryb4uFly Assessment: Using real aeroplane cabin seats, the OT  would demonstrate a range of seating and transfer equipment and recommend the one with the most suitable postural support. 
  • Access Assessment: Home visits are made to offer different transfer options between a wheelchair and a vehicle and the most appropriate would be recommended. 
  • Bugzi Assessment: A MERU Bugzi is a powered indoor wheelchair for children aged one to six. They are available to loan and enable children with disabilities to experience independent mobility. An assessment includes the chance to try a Bugzi and the OT will offer advice on completing a loan application. 

During my placement I was able to visit SIRUS, an automotive specialist that manufactured many wheelchair accessible vehicles and fitted car adaptations. As someone who doesn’t know much about cars this was really useful for me to see what adaptations are possible and how they can enable a client’s independence! 

I then attended NAIDEX, a disability and independent living event where I got the chance to visit the Motability stand and learn more about the options around leasing a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair. This was my first time at NAIDEX and as a first-year student the number of different stands was both overwhelming and exciting, and showed such diversity in the areas an OT can become involved in!

Overall this was a great first placement experience, I had the chance to meet a wide range of people of all ages and saw many different conditions! Every assessment was unique, and I soon came to realise even the most experienced Occupational Therapists and Approved Driving Advisors still came across conditions they hadn’t heard of before! This helped improve my confidence when interviewing clients about how they felt their condition impacted their driving. This highlighted how meaningful driving can be, both as an enjoyable activity and a way of maintaining independence.

Thanks to this placement I have now gained an awareness of what services are available to support peoples independent mobility that I can pass on to anyone who will benefit!

Student news: OT school in Bremen & Hand Therapy Project.

Our school ‘Fachschule für Ergotherapie’ is the only school for Occupational Therapy in Bremen. It was founded in 2015 and is located in the northern part of Bremen.

In 2018, it got the WFOT approval and became a member of ENOTHE. We have about sixty students in three classes and four teachers as well as several guest lecturers.

To the school administration it is very important that we work and learn practically; which means that we work in projects for example in elementary schools, homes for the elderly and those with mental health conditions.

The education is not only based on theory but mainly on different case studies. We are currently working on a study with a six year old boy called David. The subject is to learn about pediatrics: low muscle tone and sensory processing disorder.Mrs. Winter, another case study, helps us to understand the details of geriatrics and the related consequences.

In Germany, the apprenticeship for occupational therapists takes three years and is followed by an exam. After the successful completion of the apprenticeship it is possible to study and achieve a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree.

A subject of discussion is that in some of the German states the apprentices have to pay a monthly fee to go to school. These costs are not covered by the government. In the state of Bremen the current cost for the education is 180 € per month. The consequence is that the money discourages some people from starting the Occupational Therapy education. It is planned that by the end of the summer at the latest, the fee will disappear completely.


About me:

My name is Martyna Gwiazda, I am currently studying Occupational Therapy in Wroclaw, Poland. In this article, I seek to present my next multidisciplinary project which I have high prospects for.

What is the project?

My next project sees me cooperating with individuals from other degree disciplines instead of students from areas within Occupational Therapy like my previous project. I mostly worked with students of Physiotherapy and Mechanics and our approach can be broken down into many systematic steps.

Firstly, we explored the plan extensively not just with each other but with professional Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists. This was so we could carry out anupper and lower extremity test.The result was creating a device/apparatus to develop the Palmar Flexion of the wrist. Below you can see an initial concept design created by our main Mechanic student:

This device/apparatus is made from metal, makes use of springs so that its powered by users’ muscles, and uses four props for support. 

Was it successful?

I am satisfied with the initial results of the project and it highlights the significance of working in a group. 

The main positives of working in a multi-professional team is taking advantage of different perspectives on research methods and solutions. It also builds a strong base for future career development and lets professionals gain a new source of inspiration. Another skill that is developed is interpersonal skills.

Recently I’m working on a new project and I’m convinced about continuing with the positives of multi-professional collaboration. Incase there are any events about the role of OT and the healthcare system please feel welcome to inform me. Also, I’d like to create new wonderful concepts and solutionsAt the national and international stage.

Rehabilitation Centre in Switzerland: An OT perspective!

Introduction…

Jelena, 23 years old, studies Occupational Therapy (grade 4) at ZUYD Hogeschool in Heerlen. She and a friend of hers, Lea Gnida, went to Switzerland to do an internship. They were both looking very forward to their trip to Switzerland. They worked as interns in a rehabilitation centre in Valens, a small village on top of a mountain with a height of about 1000 meters. The rehabilitation centre was located in a large building where a lot of people from different backgrounds are working. In this centre work a lot of different specialized teams such as: occupational therapists, physiotherapists, creative therapists, music therapists, equine therapists, speech therapists, nurses, and doctors. The first three days of the internship were mainly to get to know the rehabilitation centre and to get familiar with their treatment plans. After those three days Jelena was made fully responsible for her own clients and work. Especially in the beginning she found this very difficult. She was not used to work all by herself because she had never been put in a situation like this during her previous internships.

How easy was it to adjust to the language?

During her first weeks in Switzerland, Jelena experienced also some difficulties with speaking and understanding Swiss. Jelena was born in Germany. She told me that she watched television series in Swiss and bought a Swiss language book to learn and understand more about the language before actually going to Switzerland. During her internship Jelena soon noticed that Swiss was even more difficult to understand than expected. Fortunately (almost) all of the therapists and clients spoke German, so it was very handy for Jelena. Everybody was very understanding and gave Jelena the time to learn and understand the language. After several weeks she was finally able to understand people who lived nearby the rehabilitation centre. However, the dialects from other parts of Switzerland were sometimes too difficult to understand.

Jelena said that it helped a lot that she spoke German, but she also thinks that someone from the Netherlands who has some knowledge of the German language will not encounter any problems with understanding Swiss.

Many of the people Jelena worked with were not from Switzerland and spoke German with each other a lot of the time.

Was it an international team?

During the team consults people from different professions consulted with each other about various topics. Differences between the various disciplines were not seen as important because there were working many people from different countries, with different professions. Once in a while they also held team meetings, during these meetings therapists were able to talk about cases in which they experienced some difficulties. After those meetings they planned a consult with the client in which they gave some information about the different treatments they had given so far. By doing so, the whole team was able to think about how they could improve and maybe even change their treatment plans. Jelena said that she found these meetings always very interesting and that she learned a lot from these meetings.

How was the experience in general?

Jelena said she had a very pleasant stay in Switzerland. The one thing she didn’t like was being away from home for three months and not being able to see her boyfriend and friends. Of course, she was very happy that she was able to go to Switzerland with her friend Lea, so she wasn’t all alone. Jelena and Lea shared a room in a house were the rest of the staff was also housed. In this house they had to share a kitchen and a bathroom with other roommates.

Jelena told me that she received an internship fee which was about 1200 Swiss Francs (± 900 euro). She had to pay about 450 euros for her room. In Switzerland everything is a little bit more expensive than in the Netherlands or in Germany. Mostly meat was very pricey. So, Jelena and Lea decided that they were going to eat more veggies and less meat during their stay in Switzerland.

What did the internship include?

Jelena worked 42 hours per week at the rehabilitation centre, but there were some weeks that she worked overtime. In the morning they always began with an ADL-observation and after this the individual treatments followed. In the afternoon she always helped out with group therapy sessions. These therapies took place at different locations, for example at a school. At these locations there were different rooms with a bed, kitchen etc. During her internship Jelena was able to do a lot of her work independently. By doing so, she noticed very quickly what was good for her and what wasn’t.

Her supervisors were only present during treatments when needed. This was something that Jelena experienced as very pleasant. At first, she tried to work very precisely, so she was always very busy after work and in the weekends because she had to prepare a lot of things on beforehand. At one point, she noticed that this was too much for her to handle and she decided to make a change. She tried to do some of the work during the therapy sessions, so she immediately could learn from her mistakes. This made Jelena feel more stress-resistant. She also was very happy that there wasn’t always someone checking up on her and looking over her shoulders while working. When she needed help, she could always count on her supervisor. ‘Everyone was so nice and kind to me. Everyone always wanted to help me’.

Once a month Jelena talked with a teacher from her school in the Netherlands via Skype. During these sessions they talked about personal matters but also about her internship.

How did you spend your free time?

Of course, Jelena was not always working during her internship. The surrounding areas of the rehabilitation centre were very beautiful. She loved to hike in the mountains and she also went to a ski area which was close by. In this ski area they went up and down the mountains with a sled and there was also a funicular railway. Near the rehabilitation centre was a city where Jelena went shopping, to the movies or had dinner with some friends. During the weekends they took the car and travelled through the area. It was very useful for Jelena and Lea to have a car, because the public transport in Switzerland was very expensive.   

Would you recommend it?

Jelena would definitely go back to Switzerland if she had the chance. She learned a lot from her internship because it was a place where a lot of independence was required. It is also very important that you can cope with stressful situations, if you are interested in doing an internship like this. One of the main reasons why she enjoyed this internship so much was because she worked with people from different nationalities and disciplines. These people had very different views and ideas about work. So, Jelena learned a lot about multi-disciplinary and multi-cultural work. The rehabilitation centre was a very nice place to work where you could always learn from everyone and from every experience.

Guest blog experience: OT internship in Linköping, Sweden

About me

My name is Jurn Veenstra, I am a 24-year old Occupational Therapy student. I have started my 4th semester of my education at Zuyd Hogeschool in Heerlen. I had the opportunity to do an internship abroad and learn more about the world of Occupational Therapy (OT). I made the decision to go to Sweden’s 6th largest city, Linköping. I have lived there from the beginning of August till 11 December. In Linköping I did an internship at a university hospital. During this period, I was working together at the hospital with a multi-disciplinary team.

In August I started with an intensive Swedish course of 4 weeks.

In our first school week we had a so-called international week where we learnt the basics of the Swedish (again) language and some medical terminology. During the international week I met a lot of fellow international students who were living in the same neighbourhood as me.

I made the decision to do my internship in Sweden because it seemed very interesting to me to work and live abroad, I heard that Occupational Therapy should be on a higher level then back home and because of the fact that Sweden was always on the to visit list. It was also a great opportunity for me to learn more about Sweden and have a little holiday break as well.

I was most scared about the fact that it was going to be just me, living independently in Sweden. Here, in the Netherlands there are always friends and family who live close by and can give advice and support to you when needed. In Sweden I was going to be all by myself which was very exciting for me.

What was the internship?

During my stay in Linköping I worked at two different units located in the same building. One unit was a neurological care division for people who required serious care after they had been in a motorcycle accident or stroke for example. The orthopaedics unit was for students who were following a medical training in Swedish. These students were responsible for maintaining a daily structure. During the two weeks I had worked there it was our responsibility, as international students, to observe and evaluate daily tasks. Sometimes we also helped the team out. During this period, I have learnt how to measure the blood pressure, how to draw blood and how to check for blood cells under a microscope.

At the revalidation unit I was responsible for the care of four patients, with the help of my supervisor of course. These patients needed several hours of therapy a day, like a wheelchair training, arm-hand function training and activities of daily living like cooking. We also went on house visits. We worked with the same process model as we use in the Netherlands, named CPPF.

I was already familiar with this model because I had used it for some projects I had done in an earlier stage of my study. We also used FIM assessments, PRPP observations, Los Ranchos Amigos Scale and other assessments.

When I look back on my time in Sweden and my internship, I can conclude that OT in Sweden is very similar to OT in the Netherlands. The guidance and advice of my supervisor has been really helpful. She translated everything for me during meetings with professionals and with patients who couldn’t speak English.

One thing which was very surprising for me, was the fact the hospital was not familiar with ICF domains. This was something that still had to be implemented. They were planning to do so in the future.

I had a very pleasant stay in Sweden and had a great time during my internship. I have had no negative experiences, besides for being sick for a week. When I was sick, I quickly noticed that the health care system in Sweden is very different in comparison with the Dutch health care system. I had to call different doctors and hospitals before I got the help I needed. The waiting time was also extremely long. Because of this I had to extend my stay for two weeks to make sure I had worked enough hours at the hospital. During this time a lot of people I became friends with were already back home and this made me feel kind of lonely. At this time I wanted to go home as soon as possible.

What was most surprising to me was that you can communicate in different ways with patients although there is a language barrier. You can use sign or body language. I found this very interesting and I would like to do an additional course for sign language as soon as I finish this study.

I bought a bike which was very useful to make my way through town or to the hospital as well. You could go from one side to the other in half an hour (more or less). The other Dutch student had a car sometimes we used it to go to places which was very handy!

Exploring Sweden

Besides working there was also time for some relaxation of course. I have travelled a lot through Sweden. I have visited Stockholm multiple times, Kiruna, Narvik and the surrounding areas of Linköping (I saw the northern lights in the last 3 places). We also went to ice hockey games and had drinks and dinners with other students from the hospital.

The most important thing I have learned from this experience is that even though you don’t speak the native language of a country it is still possible to communicate with people and to accomplish your goals.

I would describe my stay in Sweden in two words, both exciting and interesting. I would definitely recommend other students to go abroad but I would also like to remind them to look up some information about a country on beforehand. By doing so you will be guaranteed that you are going to a place where OT is known and where you can learn a lot.

UNAEE: National Association of French OT students

The first UNAEE event of 2019 took place in Nevers, France, in March!

But first, what’s UNAEE?

UNAEE is the National Association of French OT students. Its main goals are to defend French OT student’s rights and interests, to represent them within deciding bodies of the institutions and give them opportunities in order to make the most out of their studies. The UNAEE was also created to build a network between the OT students from the various institutes in France. That is why we organize yearly events gathering OT students from all over the country! 

So what was this event?

During a rainy March weekend, our “Week-end de formation” or “WEF” took place in Nevers. It gathered about 170 students from all over France. The weekend’s theme was voted by the students via Facebook and they chose “Occupational therapy and mental health”. 

What happened during the WEF?

The weekend started off with the UNAEE’s general assembly where the UNAEE board members presented their current projects. 

After a very amusing laughter yoga collective session, the workshops began. On Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, the students participated in a series of workshops and lectures touching on “OT and mental health”, but also about opportunities that are available to them and their rights as OT students. For example, some OT professionals came to talk to us about working as an OT in a prison setting, the OT intervention with patients on the autism spectrum or suffering from addictions, mindfulness and OT, etc. 

Students from other health care professions also came to exchange on the importance of interdisciplinary work when caring for patients suffering from mental health issues. Students could also participate in workshops such as “How to organize an event?”, “How to bring sustainable development to your institute?” and “How to build an international solidarity project?”.


I got the chance to lead a workshop to promote international mobility and had some of my fellow students testify about some of their experiences abroad and we answered the student’s questions. Camille talked about her 2 months placement experience in Quebec, Canada whereas Margot shared with us her experience at the ENOTHE annual event in Portugal. She and François presented their adventure in Madagascar as members of the 2018 PSIEE (the UNAEE’s international solidarity project). I was also able to promote SPOT and the mini SPOT concept. I really wanted to show the many ways in which experiencing internationalization is possible.

To top it off, we all got to celebrate and have fun Saturday night all dressed up and colorful in our 80s inspired outfits! 

All in all, the best part of the week-end is being able to witness the French OT student network come to life thanks to new encounters as well as being reunited with friends you’ve met during previous UNAEE events!

Emma SCHLINQUER

Vice-President in charge of international relations and mobility at the UNAEE 

2ndyear OT student in Lille, France

International Thesis in Bali, Indonesia

My international experience with a thesis in Bali, Indonesia

About me

My name is Naomi de Graaf, I am a 22 year old Occupational Therapy student at the University of Arnhem and Nijmegen (HAN) in the Netherlands. This year I started my fourth (last) year of education. It consists of a half year thesis (first semester) and a half year internship (second semester). Now I am doing an internship in a hospital in the Netherlands, but before that I did a thesis in Bali for 3 months. I am very excited to share my experiences with you! I was there from October 2nd till January 15th, 2018/2019.

 

Bali, Indonesia

Bali is a small island in Indonesia, South East Asia. Compared to other islands of Indonesia, Bali is already the most westernized. My stay was the Indonesian concept of luxury, I had my own studio with shared pool. Through a teacher from my university I had a contact person in Bali, who helped to find shelter, visa and so on. I quickly felt at home in Bali because of the incredibly friendly people, the free and relaxed life, warm weather and the beautiful nature. When I returned to the Netherlands, I had more problems with a culture shock, because of everything that must be done quickly in Europe and the high expectations. In Bali traffic is very busy, they drive on the left and there are many scooters. I had to ride scooter in Bali- At the beginning I found this very scary, but at the end I managed to drive through all the traffic and I loved it!

Thesis

I did research in Bali together with two other Occupational Therapy students and two Physiotherapy students in a hospital setting. In Bali, they didn’t promote the importance of rehabilitation and exercise after stroke to its full potential. The project had been developing for two years and our part was to implement the already made leaflets with exercises for home rehabilitation.

I have learned that it is very important to adapt to the culture. In addition, we as a group have learned to work more independently. I found the difference between a hospital in The Netherlands and Bali very interesting. The collaboration between the professionals was not always successful and they didn’t use guidelines effectively. Because of this I realised the importance of these behaviours. Working in a multidisciplinary group created a challenge; the Physiotherapy students preferred different work methods than the Occupational Therapy students. I have learned to share my opinion and have the confidence to know when to adapt myself or not. I would recommend everyone to do your thesis abroad or in a multidisciplinary group, because you learn a lot personally and professionally!

Occupational Therapy in Asia

Occupational Therapy isn’t as widely established in Bali as in The Netherlands, but it doesn’t matter! You can learn a lot, because we had to promote our profession and transfer our knowledge from Europe. By sharing your knowledge, you learn again.

I hope you enjoyed my experiences!

Greetings, Naomi de Graaf

The FAB Program- Connecting OT students from Finland, Austria & Belgium

Hello, I’m Tom Pauwaert from Belgium and I’m in my final year studying OT and got the opportunity to join the FAB program. 

So what is the FAB program?

The FAB project is a very unique project because it’s the only joint degree at bachelor level in Europe. It’s a joint program in the last semester of your study as an OT with approximately 20 students in total and 12 teachers from Metropolia University in Finland, FH Campus Wien in Austria and Artevelde University College in Ghent. It consists of 6 modules.

The first one was in Belgium in December, where we went on an urban exploration and got divided into groups of 5 to explore a district in Ghent. In this exploration we talked to a lot of people from different nationalities and asked about their occupation. On Friday every group gave a presentation about their district in a creative way. 

With this way of teaching rather than sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher, we could teach our fellow students about the key concepts like:

-Urbanization & Community Development

-Gentrification & Inclusive design

-Occupational justice

-Transformation through occupation

-Occupation consciousness of the districts.

In February there was a week in Helsinki, Finland.

There, the theme of the week was module 2: “the future of OT by 2030”. There were really broad themes such as technology, internationalization, demographic changes and participation for working life. The brainstorming sessions were about where and what OT’s will do in the future. It was fascinating to see the different perspectives from every group. Each group presented what the emerging roles might be in the future.

After the week in Helsinki all the students are doing an internship abroad for 12 weeks in module 3. In my case, I’m currently doing an internship in neurology in the Donauspital in Vienna. All the students are doing module 4: Health Promotion at the university that is responsible for them during the internship. There we are working in small groups about health prevention and health promotion. During you’re internship you get time to write your bachelor thesis, that’s the 5th module.

In June we will have the final week module 6 of the FAB project in Vienna. Here we will go further into urban exploration, building up on the knowledge we achieved in Belgium.

 What was your overall experience of the program?

In my case, this project has been an outstanding experience so far. This cooperation is beneficial for your personal development as an OT but also learning about the cultural differences between the countries and in fields which OT’s work. In little groups during the week you get to know everybody from the FAB project really good and we’re becoming one big family.

This project will grow in the future and I would recommend it! It has shown me that during this week you get motivated by the teamwork. After every week I come home inspired and ready to go further in my development as an OT! 

If you have a further question you can reach me at:

Instagram: tpauwie