U of A students bring occupational therapy to Calgary homeless

    Terence is a client of The Mustard Seed Calgary. The 20-something-year-old is involved in several programs at The Mustard Seed and hopes to move out to his own place soon, though he admits sometimes he?s not as motivated as he?d like to be.

    May 16, 2011

    Calgary, AB—Terence is a client of The Mustard Seed Calgary. The 20-something-year-old is involved in several programs at The Mustard Seed and hopes to move out to his own place soon, though he admits sometimes he’s not as motivated as he’d like to be.

    The University of Alberta Occupational Therapy (OT) program started Independent Community Placements at The Mustard Seed in April to provide services to people just like Terence. OT students spent six weeks with guests, most of whom are experiencing mental health issues. The students facilitated medical record exchanges, worked with AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) to deliver service plans, and served as part of a valuable support system for high-acuity clients of The Mustard Seed.

    "The students got to spend time in a non-traditional setting. They worked independently, without nurses and the usual health-care workers at clinics and hospitals. Of course, the Mustard Seed staff were very helpful throughout," says Jutta Hinrichs, academic coordinator of clinical education, Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine.

    Not commonly known to everyone, occupational therapy is a type of the rehabilitation health-care service. Occupational therapists enable people with disabilities or difficulties to maximize their skills and activities, helping them pursue their best in life.

    "OT as a discipline is encouraged to look at entire person within the context of their situation," explains Danielle Costello, one of the MSc OT students on the clinical placement.

    Terence says he’s more driven these days. An OT student spent time with him, assessing him and treating him by testing his memory and working on his comprehension skills. Thanks to them, Terence says he is now more motivated to achieve more in life.

    "It’s good that they were there. They help drive people to do stuff," he smiles.

    The clinical placement at The Mustard Seed served 18 clients and was such a success that The Seed wants to expand its occupational therapy program. The U of A Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine is also proud of this achievement and will be sending another group of students to serve Calgary’s homeless in late May.

    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.