Russell Sage College Occupational Therapy students Molly Center, Rebecca Jackson, Julia Parks and Zachary Secor were recent guests on The Telehealth OT Podcast with Reina M. Olivera, DrOT, OTR/L.
Olivera invited the students to discuss their research into the use of telehealth in occupational therapy.
When the students began their project in February 2020, telehealth was not widely used in OT.
Then, in March, telehealth surged as a result of social distancing guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students fine-tuned their project to focus specifically on telehealth during the pandemic.
They surveyed more than 170 occupational therapists and other health care providers and consumers about their experience with telehealth before and during the pandemic and shared their preliminary findings with Olivera and her podcast listeners.
“What we have all learned with telehealth is that it is a tool,” said student Julia Parks, describing how telehealth can be useful when face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, due to illness, lack of transportation or other barriers.
One of the areas the students investigated was whether the practicing occupational therapists in their study had prior training in telehealth delivery.
At Sage, individual professors have worked telehealth discussions into their courses, and OT students had the opportunity to use telehealth during their fall fieldwork.
Molly Center said that these experiences, along with the entire transition to online learning current OT students experienced during the pandemic, will be an advantage when they begin work as occupational therapists who are likely to engage in telehealth in some capacity.
“We had to figure out how to do presentations and group work and all different kinds of assignments,” Center said. “We [learned] how do we adapt this online, how do we have more interactive, engaging intervention tools and treatment approaches, through what we had to do in school.”
Molly Center, Rebecca Jackson, Julia Parks and Zachary Secor are all in their second year of the Master of Occupational Therapy program at Russell Sage College. Their research project, titled “The Use of Telehealth in Occupational Therapy Settings During COVID-19,” is supervised by Professors Dayna M. Maniccia, DrPH, MS and Debra Collette, OTD, OTR/L.