Service Learning
A teaching tool connecting community and classroom

Emerging areas in Occupational Therapy

Emerging areas in Occupational Therapy

Course Director: Margaret McGrath

Margaret McGrath joined the Occupational Therapy Department at NUI Galway in October 2006. Prior to taking up this position she worked as a senior occupational therapist in age related health care at the Adelaide and Meath Hospital Dublin, incorporating the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght. Margaret obtained a BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy from the University of Dublin, Trinity College and an MSc in Rehabilitation Studies from University College Dublin. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Her focus is on occupational therapy for older adults. Margaret is interested in the potential for Occupational Therapy to contribute to community development and in collaboration with her colleagues in Occupational Therapy at NUI Galway has established the first service learning programme for occupational therapy students in the Republic of Ireland.

Margaret has been involved in a number of research projects which explore community based learning in healthcare education. Her work with Ruth McMenamin (Speech and Langauge Therapy ) has examined the impacts of service learning on students, communities and academic staff and in collaboration with colleagues from the European Network of Occupational Therapy in Higher Education she is currently engaged in exploring how community-university partnerships are used in European occupational therapy education.

Course Title: BSc. in Occupational Therapy
Subject: Occupational Therapy
Year: 3rd Year Students
Number of Participants: 18 - 25 Students
Hours: 120-160 hours of community engagement, 24 Hours Group Seminars, 120 Hours individual study
Credits: 12.5 ECTS
Length: 24 Weeks (2 Semesters)
Community Partners: Previous partners have included: MS Society, Galway Simon Community, Galway Hospice Foundation, RehabCare, COPE Services, The Alzheimer Society of Ireland, and AIDS West.

The Emerging Areas of Occupational Therapy Practice Module has a core aim of enabling students to collaborate with community organisations in order to address occupational participation and wellbeing. Since its inception in 2006 the module has undergone substantial developments and changes in response to emerging community needs and developments in occupational therapy theory and practice.

Between 2006- 2008 the primary focus of students' work was to develop occupational therapy needs assessments for local community organisations who were unable to access statutory services for their clients. During this period occupational therapy students worked with 35 different voluntary organisations in Galway city and county.

In 2008, in response to changing economics circumstances and expressed community needs the module was revised and expanded to include development of occupational therapy programmes for the community organisations. These programmes were designed to meet some of the needs identified in previous reports and were delivered by occupational therapy students with supervision from academic staff. The overall aim of the work was to encourage students to use their occupational therapy knowledge and skills to develop sustainable programmes which supported the participation of service users in valued occupations. Between 2008 - 2012 approximately 45 different project were successfully completed by occupational therapy students.

In 2012 following discussion with communities, students and external advisors we have taken on a challenge of developing a cross-sectoral community project which supports participation