Chai and Gup Shup over Occupational Therapy education, areas of practice, medical regulatory boards, frameworks, ethical practice, and everything in between!
A couple of weeks back, I came across an article in a local paper by a medical profession who was calling out Physiotherapists for using the “Dr” prefix. There were a couple of things I agreed to in this article and a couple of them that made no sense whatsoever. Throughout this article, I realized this healthcare professional didn’t care to mention Occupational Therapists because I’m pretty sure they are unaware of our existence.
I used this space for doing what I do the best- ADVOCATE and EDUCATE audience about what we do, who we are, and what falls under our ethical practice. The response was overwhelming (and not just from India)! Every Occupational Therapist practicing in India, at some point, was bullied, ignored, called out, and confused for a physical therapist which is why I decided to concise information for all Occupational Therapists to shine light on Occupational Therapy in India to understand this profession better for our current and future students and practitioners.
This blog post is a two part series of FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) about Occupational Therapy education and practice in India. So, let’s educate and empower our profession the way it needs to!
Part - 1: Understanding Occupational Therapy Education in India
1. WHAT IS OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY?
I’d be happy to copy paste google definitions for anyone who’s reading this but I have found them to be disappointing especially in Indian context. Whenever I’ve been asked this question, I usually reply by saying, “I help people live the way they want to.”
One, this response leads to a better conversation and genuinely makes someone interested in knowing about your profession than throwing the ADL bombs because NOBODY gets these words here due to the diversity in languages. Moreover, it can be translated in any local language you want and people will still find your work amusing!
Two, this is the foundation of our practice. We help, assist, facilitate, guide, and enable people to get back to their lives which may have been restricted/limited/hampered due to xyz reasons. We focus on what our client needs and wants to do with their mind, body, and spirit and we help them get there.
For example, if a client after a TKR/THR (total knee/hip replacement) wants to get back to dancing, we will work on the components and dynamic postures required in dancing and modify treatment tasks to adapt them to an activity that is meaningful and brings purpose to them while they do the best in their capacity.
2. WHAT DOES OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY PRACTICE INCLUDE?
Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (OTPF) is the key foundation highlighting and emphasizing on the interrelated constructs that describe occupational therapy practice.
OTPF is divided into two major sections:
a) the domain, which outlines the profession’s range of thought and the areas in which we have the expertise to deal with
As occupational therapists, we recognize the importance and impact of the mind–body–spirit connection as the client participates in daily life. Knowledge of occupations and people in a relational experience and the significance of meaningful and productive occupations form the basis for the use of occupations as both the means and the ends of interventions. This is exactly what sets OT practise apart from other healthcare services because we focus on the whole rather than isolated aspects of human function.
The table below gives a brief outline on the domains of Occupational Therapy:
b) the process, which describes the actions practitioners take when providing services that are client centred and focused on engagement in occupations
This includes using assessments (standardized), evaluate occupational and activity components, formulate goals and treatment plans that target particular outcomes which are specific and measurable.
The table below gives a brief outline on the process of Occupational Therapy:
Side Note for my Indian fam: I'd love to link this resource but I want you all to GOOGLE this and download this guide for yourselves or read Pedretti thoroughly!
3. WHAT DOES OT EDUCATIONAL TRAINING(S) LOOK LIKE IN INDIA?
Occupational Therapy in India falls under allied medical healthcare courses which can be pursued after one has completed high school. One needs to go through a common entrance examination to apply for private and government universities. This entrance exam is common for ALL healthcare courses in India including MBBS! Unlike western countries, one does not have the opportunity to apply to colleges individually. It is one’s merit in comparison to others that decides which college the candidate gets into.
Occupational Therapy is currently offered as a 4.5 years Bachelor’s degree, 2-3 years Master’s degree (varies according to institutions), and doctoral level [PhD] degree. There are about 30 OT schools in India that offer Bachelor’s and Master’s in Occupational Therapy. Some of the institutes also offer Master’s with specializations in Paediatrics, Orthopaedics, Neurorehabilitation, and Mental Health.
Now that we’ve cleared the basics, let me walk you through what our coursework looks like.
The characteristic thing about OT education & practice in India is EARLY HANDS-ON experience, especially if you’re in a government funded college. Clinical rotations are a compulsory part of our coursework which includes inpatient and outpatient settings within the hospital. Some of the practice areas include CBR, Paediatrics, Neurorehabilitation, Surgery, Cardiac Rehabilitation, Plastic Surgery & Burns unit, Prosthesis & Orthotics, Hand Therapy & Rehabilitation, Orthopaedics, Mental Health and De-addiction. Due to the diversity in socio-economic status and ethnicity of clients, occupations and purpose can go anywhere from lost cost aids to high quality modifications.
All students, right from their first year of education are required to work on their history taking, communication, and rapport building skills directly with patients. Second year focuses on assessment, evaluation, and hypothesizing treatment goals according to the clients needs. Third and final year highlight and polish treatment and goal formulating skills in client-centered approach.
4. WHAT ARE THE PRE-REQUISITES FOR PRACTICING OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY IN INDIA?
To practice OT in India:
One must graduate with at least baccalaureate level degree in OT (BOTh)
Should be registered as an Occupational Therapist in the state OT Council they are working in
Should be registered individually for all the degrees (somebody with BOTh and MOTh degree need to register both of these qualifications in the council to update their practitioner status)
Note: If a practitioner has received education in one state but wishes to practice in another state, they will require clearance from both the state councils for the practitioner to work in their desired location.
5. WHAT IS THE GENDER MIX OF OCCUPATIONAL THERAPISTS IN INDIA?
Occupational Therapy in India is primarily dominated by women (58%) than men (42%) dated Nov 2018. There has been a rise in the male population for pursuing OT in the recent years.
However, there are no statistics available or people that I have met until now that identify apart from the binary which is the reason why I have mentioned only binary gender identities.
I'm kidding! That's all for Part 1 folx! Head over to Part 2 which covers about Occupational Therapy practice & ethics in India.