Occupational Therapy Program focuses on Service

Occupational Therapy Program focuses on Service

OTD students palpate muscles of the scapula and feel movements of the scapula during shoulder motions for their lab work.
OT students palpate muscles of the scapula and feel movements of the scapula during shoulder motions for their lab work.

Being the hands and feet of Jesus are what Faulkner University’s occupational therapists (OTD) know they are called to be and why they strive to serve their communities’ physical and spiritual needs through health sciences.

Faulkner’s College of Health Sciences officially added the college’s fourth component, the Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) program, after being awarded Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) in April 2022. The approval allows admittance of students beginning this fall.

Dr. Amy Oliver was hired in 2019 to be the OTD program director and under her leadership has overseen the program’s creation. She said a key component that makes the program unique is the specially designed service curriculum. 

“We chose to format our curriculum around three themes, integration of faith in clinical practice, intraprofessional education, and service,” Oliver said. “We created two courses specifically on service in the workplace because as a Christian university we train our professionals to treat their patients as Christ would. Our students devote their life to therapy and as Christian therapists their profession will become their ministry. That is such a gift.”

Occupational therapists help their patients live a functional life after they have experienced a life-changing accident or have a sensory issue from birth. Those who may have experienced a stroke or a car accident may find themselves disabled and unable to feed themselves, tie their shoes, hold a pencil, get dressed or other tasks. Occupational therapists, help their patients regain their physical capabilities if it’s a temporary disability or train them to use custom tools for living on their own if it’s a permanent disability. Faulkner teaches their students to attend to not only the physical needs, but their emotional needs as well.

They also do much to serve those with autism using sensory integration techniques and using sensory equipment.  Faulkner’s College of Health Sciences’ pediatric gym will have a separate “Sensory Calming Room,” a soothing and stimulating environment consisting of calming lights activated by touch for patients with autism, sensory processing difficulties, and other developmental disabilities

Service in occupational therapy courses in Faulkner’s program will focus on clinical practice as it relates to service in local, national and international organizations and agencies. These courses explore how to serve the community drawing upon faith-based beliefs and following the guidelines and history of the profession. 

Faulkner’s program is approved for a maximum entering class size of up to 50 students. The first cohort will start classes on August 30, 2022, and all faculty and staff to serve the first cohort have been secured.

“I want to thank Dr. Amy Oliver and her staff for the remarkable job they’ve done in achieving this milestone for the university,” said Dr. Dave Rampersad, vice president of academic affairs. “Despite several health challenges and personal losses, Amy’s devotion to securing candidacy for the OTD program never wavered.  Special recognition is due to Breanna Yarbrough for skillfully guiding the program through the assessment processes. I remain profoundly grateful to College of Health Sciences Dean Dr. Leah Fullman for her leadership of the college, as well as for her invaluable contributions with various aspects of the report.”

OTD students work alongside each other during their lab work.
OT students work alongside each other during their lab work.

Although Faulkner’s OTD program is the final of the four pillars that will form the foundation of the College of Health Sciences, other health-related programs are being considered for future additions including an online PhD in Health Sciences.

Each program focuses on working together with the other professions, similarly to how they would work with speech-language pathologists, physical therapists and physician assistants for a patient in a real clinical setting. Students will learn how to work effectively as part of a health care team, how to manage conflict and solve problems while respecting individual differences. 

“Each semester we have what we call grand rounds where all four of our health science disciplines are presented with a case study and work together to address different components of diagnosis and therapy based on their program,” Oliver said. 

Occupational therapy is organized into eight semester or 110 credit hours with 24 weeks of full-time clinical experiences and 14 weeks of capstone experiential. Students will complete 12 weeks of fieldwork hours during the spring and fall semesters where they will apply their understanding of occupation, professional practice, therapeutic use of self, evidence-based practice and servant leadership. Students will be able to work in more than 120 secured placements across the country in pediatrics, mental health facilities, home health, acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient clinics, schools and other clinical settings.  

 The OTD program will be included on ACOTE’s list of programs that are holding Candidacy Status and are eligible to admit students.

An occupational therapy educational program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) prior to students’ graduation for its students to be eligible to sit for the national certification examination offered by the National Board of Certification in occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Faulkner University’s OTD program has been granted Candidacy status by ACOTE. As a result of this action, Faulkner University is eligible to admit students into the OTD Program, with the first cohort beginning in August 2022. Faulkner will proceed with the Preaccreditation Review step of the accreditation process. Faulkner will be notified of accreditation status by 2024. The first cohort is expected to graduate in May of 2025.