Helping students helping children

Student-Led Program provides pediatric placements and mentorship for Calgary Rehab Med students

Laurie Wang - 16 November 2016

There's a sleeping bag in the tent and a crackling campfire on the iPad. This is one of the treatment sessions Colleen Drybrough developed for her five-year-old client who was recently diagnosed with Autism.

The University of Alberta MSc Occupational Therapy student recently completed the Student-Led clinical placement program at Vi Riddell Children's Pain and Rehabilitation Centre at Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary.

"I was able to get creative. Fine motor skills were incorporated into the theme by using tongs to collect pretend bugs from our tent, and incorporating sensory stimulation through emulating campfire food. The child became highly engaged immediately after using theme and play-based therapeutic activities. She showed progressive development of skills throughout the program," smiled Drybrough, who attends the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine's Calgary satellite program.

The Student-Led program provides a unique placement setting by using a group placement model of three to six students supported by one to two preceptors. This model uses a combination of peer support and individualized learning, which allowed for diversity, collaboration and multiple perspectives in clinical reasoning. In this placement, the preceptor did not carry a clinical caseload and therefore each student was independently provided with full responsibility over their own caseload for the eight-week duration of the program.

"During this placement I was responsible for providing formal occupational therapy (OT) assessment, four to six weeks of treatment, and discharge to children coming from the community to access OT support," Drybrough explained.

Jillian Quigley, occupational therapist and program facilitator for the Student-Led Program said it's great to have the students from the UAlberta Calgary cohort. "They know the city, community resources and are very proud to be part of the Calgary cohort. They also belong to a small, tight knit group so it's an intimate learning experience and they bring this experience to our program."

Quigley received the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists Fieldwork Educator Award of Excellence this year for her mentorship style.

"I think I received the award because the students I have mentored and supervised appreciated my approach and style of teaching. My style is to allow the students to grow, try new things and take a risk and sometimes that means making a mistake. The learning is in the mistake and the mix-up!" she says.

Considering how the Student-Led Program works and anecdotes from a variety of OT students across Canada, Quigley's award certainly shows she's in the right role.

"I was very honored and pleased to know that my style of preceptorship with students had been received positively, and students felt success after completing this placement. I was grateful to know that the effort I've contributed to the students' learning was a match for their learning needs."

So far six OT students and eight physical therapy students from U of A have participated in the Student-Led Program for their clinical placements. As the partnership grows, Quigley said she would love to work more closely with the U of A.

"The partnership has great potential to support allied health students in developing their clinical skills in pediatrics. Our hope is to support the next generation of therapists who might become part of the pediatric community."

Drybrough, who will be graduating in the next few months, agrees and is very thankful for this partnership.

"As this was my final placement prior to graduating, I was intrigued by the opportunity to independently take on a caseload in preparation for future practice with a paediatric population. This placement also provided the opportunity to develop well-rounded skill sets by providing services to clients full circle from admission to discharge."