Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy Undergraduate Education: Reflections of a New Graduate

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy Undergraduate Education: Reflections of a New Graduate

Article excerpt


Undergraduate occupational therapy education at Auckland University of Technology includes identical core papers for multiple health science disciplines, alongside occupational therapy papers targeting specific knowledge acquisition. The array of topics covered reflects occupational therapy's broad scope of practice; however, this may be at the expense of in-depth learning for some students. Questions about the suitability of the curriculum and required fieldwork placements, and their implications for future practice are raised in this paper. For instance, does the pathway of papers in the undergraduate three year programme equip future practitioners with sufficient skills and knowledge to perform various healthcare roles competently?

Key words

Student, learning, knowledge, curriculum, practicum


Farrelly, L. (2013). Occupational therapy undergraduate education: Reflections of a new graduate. New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62(2), 32 - 35.


This viewpoint article is written with the hope that it will inspire debate within the profession about academic study designed to prepare occupational therapy students for the reality of practice. The viewpoint is based on personal observations and experiences as a student enrolled at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Bachelor of Health Science (BHSc) (Occupational Therapy [OT]) 2010 curriculum. Questions are posed for the reader to consider, and I have made comments intended to provoke discussion in the workplace. To start at the beginning, why, as a mature student, did I choose a new career direction and the ensuing academic pathway?

Meaningful occupation

In 2009 I found myself debating whether I wanted to remain in the clothing industry that I had chosen in my teens. I had been working in the industry for over 25 years and had reached a stage whereby I was repeatedly asking myself "so what, they're only clothes". My job, which was a huge part of my life, had become less than meaningful. The clothing industry had changed over time but more to the point, so had I. I feel it pertinent to mention here that if I could only watch one television show per week, that would be 'Attitude', a NZ made television series which showcases people with physical and mental disabilities (Attitude, 2013). Attitude, which explores the world from the perspective of people with disabilities, provides the viewer with valuable insights into the realities of living with a disability. I have watched every episode since it first aired and that is how I discovered that there are people working within multiple organisations who make a significant difference within the health and disability sector. I came to realise that I wanted to be a part of an enabling world and so I resigned from my job and enrolled in both the Bachelor of Human Services at Auckland University and a BHSc (Occupational Therapy) at AUT. Accepted for both courses I chose occupational therapy because it resonated with my goals. Hence on March 1, 2010 I began my occupational therapy education under a recently modified curriculum at AUT.

My previous educational experience was in the 1970s, and as a mature student this time around I was very unsure of tertiary education. Nevertheless, I entered university full of optimism and thinking that once I completed my degree, I would be ready to embark on a new and exciting career as an occupational therapist. Three years down the educational track I am older, and I like to think wiser. I am able to reflect on my naivety and muse about how my academic education has prepared me for a variety of health professional roles, and shaped me as one of a new cohort of therapists who envisage an occupational therapy career that may follow an unconventional route.

The core papers

As a novice health science student, I had no concept of the topics that would be covered, the value of each paper, or the sequence in which learning should take place. …

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