Take a deep breath and stretch

Occupational therapy students at Calgary satellite awarded grant from the Wellness Project to reduce stress and raise community spirit.

Garret Johnston - 21 May 2015

(Calgary) With papers, exams, part-time work and presentations, student life can be a juggling act, and for second-year students in the occupational therapy program, one of those juggling balls to keep airborne is the course OCCT 558: Enabling Occupation in the Community.

As part of their winter 2015 course, occupational therapy students Amy Cook, Maurissa Lacoursiere, Julia Mills and Andrea Rutherford based at the department's Calgary satellite site wrote a proposal to use yoga, dance and group games to combat student stress. Edmonton-based students have University Wellness Services, Campus Recreation, counselling and clinical Services among other programs to help them through rough spots each term, but until now Calgary students have had limited options, according to a survey the students conducted as part of the proposal design.

"We wanted it to be feasible-something the first-year students entering the program could easily start next year and could expand to include other satellite students," said Julia Mills, a second-year occupational therapy student and co-writer on the original proposal. "We presented it to the upcoming students and two enthusiastic reps came forward right away. The highlight has been seeing where they've taken it so far."

The student reps applied for and received a $1,000 grant from the Wellness Project, an initiative funded by Alberta Health that aims to contribute to creating a culture of wellness at the U of A.

"We'll be doing yoga, light exercise, mindfulness and relaxation activities in between classes. It's going to be good for community building and stress relief." -Cassandra Greenhough, student wellness rep

When classes resume in September, students will take the wellness initiative to the University of Calgary's downtown campus, the new home for the U of A's physical therapy and occupational therapy departments.

"We'll be doing yoga, light exercise, mindfulness and relaxation activities in between classes. It's going to be good for community building and stress relief," said Cassandra Greenhough, one of two student wellness representatives responsible for turning the proposal into reality.

Both the proposal writers and the student reps hope to expand the wellness program to include physical therapy students studying in Calgary.

The proposal was created as part of OCCT 558, taught for the last four years by Sharon Brintnell, in conjunction with Jutta Hinrichs and Susan Mulholland, both Calgary-based faculty members. According to Brintnell, the course gives students experience working in real-world situations where funding applications, needs assessments and community partnerships all play a role in what the occupational therapist actually does.

"One of the key areas in the ongoing development of occupational therapy is community-based practice," said Brintnell. "The students respond to an authentic situation by designing a proposal according to real-world guidelines that meets the needs of a community partner. This year the students adapted their proposal for the Unwind Your Mind grant and succeeded in being funded.