Behind the Scenes of Brunel’s 3rd Occupational Therapy Student Conference

Published by Maurane, on behalf of authors Abigail Darko, Jenny Hong, & Fatema Virani from Brunel University London, United Kingdom

Overview…

Brunel’s Occupational Therapy Student Conference is an annual student-led event with opportunities for students in training to work together. The conference includes keynote lectures, seminars, and workshops discussing relevant topics and emerging areas that expand beyond academia teachings. This year’s conference took place on 27th of April, 2018. It included speakers who are occupational therapists, other allied health professionals, carers, parents, and service users. Delegates consisted of practitioners and students from Brunel University, students from other UK universities, Spain, The Netherlands and Belgium!

How we got started…

After forming a committee of truly passionate and committed students, an initial meeting was set up. The meeting was facilitated by a staff lecturer and allowed the committee to commence the team-bonding process. Key decisions were made, which included selecting the theme for the conference. It was only natural that the theme covered “The transformative power of occupation”. We wanted to learn new and exciting ways to use ‘occupation’ to transform the lives of communities and individuals.

The student co-chairs then facilitated meetings and discussion of ideas proposed by committee members for the conference. An action plan was drawn up with tasks to complete before the next meeting, with deadlines set before the next meeting.

Planning…

  1. Prepare to be flexible, communicate, compromise, and be patient.
  2. Ensure minutes and action plans for all meetings are recorded and sent out to the committee as soon as possible to get the ball rolling in completing tasks.
  3. Select keynote speakers, seminar and workshop leaders through university, placement, and conference networks (committee members can provide a range of presenters based on the varying experiences!). Contact and confirm the speakers’ attendance early in advance.
  4. Publicise conference on all available platforms internal and external to the University.
  5. Agree on a reasonable and realistic budget and stick to it!
  6. Once tickets go on sale, have a system in place to track the budget goals weekly.
  7. Make sure to share important milestones with the team (i.e. first 100 tickets sold, etc).
  8. When it comes to food – ‘it’s better to have too much than not enough’.

Top 10 tips for a successful day…

‘So after many hours of planning and hard work…how to make it count!’   

  1. Start early! The weeks really do fly by—draft a timeline/schedule for important jobs or roles.
  2. Set up deadlines and meet them!
  3. Communication is vital – set up a discussion forum or utilise social media to stay connected with your organising team.
  4. Teamwork – Use the strengths and talents in your team!
  5. Logistics – Make sure rooms are booked well in advance to ensure the date of your conference.
  6. Food – search for potential providers and estimated costs once the proposed budget is confirmed.
  7. Volunteers – search for members willing to support the conference and appreciate them as they are valuable contributors to the conference day.
  8. Ensure programme booklets, certificates, timetable, and registration list are in order the day before conference.
  9. Duration of conference – make sure the event follows the programme’s timetable to ensure it ends accordingly.
  10. Greet attendees and speakers and provide a welcoming and inspirational environment for members to comfortably engage and participate in the day’s activities.

Final Words…

‘Team work is dream work!’

It is imperative that as occupational therapists in the making, we advocate for student-led events. Your passion is infectious and will inspire others! Finally always remember, to have a coherent and successful conference you must ensure that it is fueled with:

  1. Teamwork: By communicating and working smart, the can be more efficient and creative with the project.
  2. Community: A sense of community within the committee should be established and developed so everyone is included, supported, and feels a part of the team.
  3. Leaders in OT: As the next generation of leaders will be in attendance of the conference, ensure they are well inspired by current OT role models!


Contacts :

Finnish Occupational Therapy Students’ pop-up in shopping centres

Published by Maurane, on behalf of authors First Year Occupational Therapy Students from Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland.

In this study module we worked on assessment of motor skills. To be able to evaluate clients’ motor skills we had to understand the anatomy and physiology of the upper limb of a human being. Therefore we deepened our knowledge of upper limb muscles, and both motor and sensory nerve systems.

We used various measurement tools to assess clients´ occupational performance. Based on the Model of Human Occupation Theory, we tested different skills that include motor, process and both communication and interaction skills. We got to see what assessment in occupational therapy means in practice. We organized a pop-up in the shopping centres of Turku and assessed upper limb motor skills of passers-by. On the same occasion we got to spread the word about occupational therapy.

 

Assessment tools we studied and used in the pop-up

Purdue pegboard test

Occupational therapy students are testing each other with Purdue pegboard-test.

Purdue pegboard test measures manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination. There is a specific board with two parallel rows with 25 holes where cylindrical metal pegs are placed by the patient. The first part of the test starts with the dominant hand. The client has 30 seconds to place metal pegs to holes as fast as possible. Then we count pegs, and the client repeats the test with the other hand. Second part of the test measures working with two hands together, client has 30 seconds to put metal pegs to two rows.

For the third part of the test, client has to put together four metal parts : pegs, trays and collars in a specific order for one minute. The assessor counts all the assembled parts and the client gets one point for each part.

Minnesota rate of manipulation test

The client is testing Minnesota rate

Minnesota-rate measures the speed of gross arm and hand movements. It assesses the hand-eye coordination, and both unilateral and bilateral manual dexterity. The complete assessment includes five tests : placing, turning, displacing, one-hand turning and placing and two-hand turning and placing.
Client can practice each test before the start of the assessment . Then they repeat each test at least twice and performed while standing. This assesses both accuracy and speed. Score of each test is time, in seconds, required to complete the chosen number of test trials.

 

Nine-hole peg

This test measures finger dexterity. It starts by asking the client to take  pegs from a container, one by one, and place them into the holes on the board, as quickly as possible. Then client have to remove the pegs from the holes, one by one, and replace them back into the container.
Client have to use only one hand at the time. Assessor starts the stopwatch from the moment the participant touches the first peg until the moment the last peg hits the container. Both hands are tested, dominant hand first.

Jamar-test

Jamar-test measures a grip strength of hand. Client and assessor sit face to face. Client have to to sit up with their back straight and keep their arm in 90 degrees. The arm is not allowed to touch the body. The press is meant to be quick and strong. The client repeats the test twice for each hand 30 seconds between the presses. Results are then compared to Finnish average in their age group.

Moberg pick up

Moberg pick up test assesses functional sensibility. This test involves picking up, holding, manipulating and identifying everyday objects. The client gets 10 standard objects which are the same temperature example metal. The test starts by naming the 10 objects. After that the client picks up the objects and puts them in to the box, first with their dominant hand and then with the other hand. The same is done next blindfolded. After that the client has to identify the objects blindfolded and put them back in to the box. Assessor times the test with a stopwatch.

Box and blocks

The idea of the Box and blocks test is to measure the gross manual dexterity. In the test there is a two-parts box, there are 150 blocks on one side of the box and the other one is empty. Thus the client moves blocks with one hand to the other side of the box. Client start with their dominant hand and they have one-minute time to try to move blocks to the other side as fast as possible. The assessor then counts blocks, and client repeats the test with the other hand. They have 15 seconds to practice the test with each hand.

Pinch-test

Pinch-test measures pinch grip strength. The client uses three differents grips in this test; pincer grip, key pinch grip and three finger pinch grip. During the test the client sits on a chair and the assessor holds the pinch meter still so the client can do the test. The assessor tell her/him to sit up with their back straight and arm in 90 degrees. The arm is not allowed to touch the body. The client pinches the pinch meter as hard as possible. The assessor then compares results to Finnish average in client’s age group.

 

Nine-hole peg, Jamar, Moberg, Box and Blocks, and Pinch

Organizing a pop-up was a great opportunity for us to learn how to use these measurements. We recommend these kinds of events for all of you future occupational therapists!


Feel free to comment this blog and email me at blogger@spoteurope.eu if you have any question about this article. SPOTeurope board is approachable if you want to write an article on this blog, or become involved in this wide OT students network! – Maurane 

Working with refugees – Projects at the Health University of Applied Sciences Tyrol – Occupational Therapy Department

Published by Maurane, blogger, on behalf of Authors: Hartmann Victoria, Lukavsky Alexander, Röck Vanessa, Strasser Sophia

Picture yourself in our situation: you’re studying, on the weekends you’re hanging out with your friends and you see your bright future for yourself as an occupational therapist.

Suddenly, everything is changing – there is war. Your life is not like it used to be. In the blink of an eye, all your dreams are shattered. You’re surrounded by death and violence, and you have to leave your country. You’re not able to communicate in your mother tongue, you’ve lost parts of your occupational identity, you’re not allowed to work and, instead, you’re waiting for a positive response to your asylum request.

Life as a refugee can be difficult to imagine, but for almost 22,5 million people around the world, it is a terrifying reality (UNHCR, 2017). Refugees belong to a group in danger of occupational deprivation (Whiteford, 2000). Thus we, as occupational therapists, play a vital role in enabling them to participate successfully. Hence, the occupational therapy department from our university, the Health University of Applied Sciences Tyrol, undertook two projects alongside the Bachelor and Master students focusing on aiding in this transition.

Projects

In 2016, the project’s aim was about “building a space and a place for encounter” by furnishing and decorating an “encounter room” together with the refugees living in a refugees’ home in Innsbruck, Austria. Once we got to know each other, we worked in three different groups: sewing, woodworking and gardening. At the project’s conclusion, we celebrated our shared results with lots of traditional food and music. After the project, we reflected upon our experiences and presented them to our professors and fellow students. Furthermore, there was a scientific evaluation of the project, wherein the students, as well as the refugees and the project leaders, were invited to semi-structured (and focus group) interviews.

In 2017, the first focus was on creating a positive experience of encounter between students and the refugees. Our aim was then to identify the resources and competencies of each participating refugee to enable him or her to engaging in meaningful occupations and, in doing so, to contribute to the so- called “Tyrolean compass of competencies” – a project in the Austrian province Tyrol. Within the context of the project, we gathered information regarding the refugees’ interests, resources, and competencies, as well as their occupational roles and accomplishments and summarized them in a document. To finish off the project we also made a presentation in front of the students, the professors, the stakeholders and the participants. This opportunity was also used to hand over these documents to the participants in a formal context.

Benefits

We, the students, really appreciated the projects. By gaining our first OT working experiences in our first year of studies we strengthened our identities as future OTs. Furthermore, we were able to build a connection between practice and theory (occupational science, OT-models, community-based practice, professional reasoning), and we now have important experience with cultural sensitivity and exchange. We improved our teamwork and organization skills, learned to be flexible, to work with the available resources and to communicate without speaking the same language. Apart from the professional context, we had the opportunity to meet inspiring individuals and even make new friends. Some of us are still in contact with the participants, meeting regularly and arranging dinners together.

Not only were we, as students, able to benefit from the project, but also everyone else involved. We received positive feedback from the people whom we worked with, including social workers and volunteers from the refugee home. We enabled the participants to use their identified resources to find new perspectives and to open up new possibilities. They had the opportunity to take part in meaningful activities and subsequently get out of occupational deprivation, all whilst having the chance to improve their German-language skills and gaining insights into our culture, values, and especially the value of women in our society.

Sustainability

A very gratifying aspect is the sustainability of the project. Beside our newly-gained learning experiences, the project enabled many students to participate in their first fieldwork placements working with refugees. Additionally, there was a publication and dissemination of knowledge (Wetzelsberger, Pasqualoni & Costa, 2017), whilst serving as a good example of practice for the OT community.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we’d like to point out that projects like this not only support students to develop their professional skills, but also help refugees to overcome occupational deprivation. It is our view that there are still a lot more ideas and opportunities for occupational therapists to enable refugees. Although there are a lot of other essential professions in this field, we believe that it is very important to work as an OT in this area because we can add a unique skillset.

We hope we could give you an insight into this field of practice and would like to end with a quote from Helen Claire Smith (2005) in the BJOT, where she wrote that “there is no excuse for allowing our anxieties to halt us from offering the same services that we would do for any other client group“. So: “feel the fear and do it anyway” (Jeffers, 1997 qtd. in Smith, 2005).

Hartmann Victoria, Lukavsky Alexander, Röck Vanessa, Strasser Sophia
Health University of Applied Sciences Tyrol – Occupational Therapy Department

CONTACT

Student group: Vanessa Röck vanessa.roeck@edu.fhg-tirol.ac.at
Project conception & continuation: Dr. Ursula Costa ursula.costa@fhg-tirol.ac.at

References

Whiteford, G.E. (2000). Occupational Deprivation: Global Challenge in the New Millennium. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63(5), 200 – 204.

UNHCR (2017). Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2016. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/5943e8a34

Smith, H. C. (2005). ‘Feal the fear and Do it Anyway’: Meeting the Occupational Needs of Refugees and People seeking Asylum. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(10), 474–476.

Wetzelsberger, B., Pasqualoni, P.P., & Costa, U. (2017). Creating a place and space for encounter: Collaborative action taking within a cooperation of people seeking asylum and project report for the Tyrolean OT association.

Innsbruck: fhg – Health University of Applied Sciences Tyrol.