Rehab Faculty uses technology to bring physical therapy program to rural Alberta

22 September 2010

This September the University of Alberta's Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine is bringing its master of science in physical therapy program to Camrose, Alberta.

By using high-definition video and audio, 10 students at the Augustana campus in Camrose and 70 students in Edmonton will study in synch.

The students in Camrose will be able to view, interact and experience the same labs and lectures as their Edmonton classmates by using real-time and high-definition video conferencing. Clinical placements will be held in Camrose, allowing students to get hands-on experience in a rural setting. Renovations were completed this summer to produce a state-of-the-art lab and classroom for students in Augustana.

"Instructors will do everything they can to ensure the Augustana students are learning the same concepts, critical thinking and clinical skills as their counterparts in Edmonton," said Martin Ferguson-Pell, dean of rehabilitation medicine.

The goal of this program is to help address the shortage of rehabilitation professionals in Alberta's rural communities. Currently, 40 per cent of the province's population lives outside of Edmonton and Calgary and only 10 per cent of physical therapists work in rural settings.

"We need to train more professionals who will practice in rural communities," said Roger Epp, dean of Augustana Campus, "and the University of Alberta's Augustana Campus is well placed to meet those needs. The addition of physiotherapy to the programs offered at Augustana translates into real benefits and opportunities for the students, the campus, our community of Camrose and rural Alberta as a whole."

Kaitlan Braden, who is enrolled in the physical therapy program at Augustana, is a perfect fit for this program. Braden grew up in a small farming community and says the best way to highlight the benefits of rural Alberta is to experience it firsthand through living and learning there.

"My future goals for this career are to remain in rural Alberta and practice physiotherapy," said Braden. "I really enjoy working with children and would love to have the opportunity to work in a rural pediatric setting."

About the University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
As the only free standing faculty of rehabilitation in Canada, the University of Alberta Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine balances its activities among learning, discovery and citizenship (including clinical practice). A research leader in musculoskeletal health, spinal cord injuries and common spinal disorders (back pain), the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine aims to improve the quality of life of citizens in our community. The three departments, Occupational Therapy (OT), Physical Therapy (PT) and Speech Pathology and Audiology (SPA) offer professional entry programs. The Faculty offers thesis-based MSc and PhD programs in Rehabilitation Science, attracting students from a variety of disciplines including OT, PT, SLP, psychology, physical education, medicine and engineering.