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A descriptive study of occupational and physical therapists in British Columbia McGregor, Louise

Abstract

In order to plan appropriate educational activities for occupational and physical therapists baseline data are required. For this descriptive study a twenty percent random sample of therapists in British Columbia was surveyed. Their demographic, educational, employment and professional characteristics as well as their future educational and employment goals were investigated and compared. Participation in various types of learning activities, formal and informal, and the deterrents to participation in continuing education were considered. A check list of perceived learning needs was categorized and rank ordered. A factor analysis and a mean rating on thirty selected statements of opinion were reported. Few significant differences were found between the occupational therapists and the physical therapists. The majority of both resided and worked in the greater Vancouver area and were female between 25 and 29 years of age. Most of the therapists graduated with a diploma and had attended university. The Canadian schools accounted for about 60.0 percent of the graduates and the British schools for 25.0 percent. Over 65.0 percent were working in a hospital or rehabilitation center and more than 60.0 percent were dealing with patients who were at the acute or rehabilitation level of care. Approximately 20.0 percent had been in their present position for over six years. It was found that most available in-service educational activities were well attended. Professional literature was frequently cited as an educational resource. Membership in the professional associations was reported by the vast majority, however, meetings and congresses conducted by the associations were not frequently attended. On the average a therapist had attended at least one continuing education short course every two years. The major deterrents to participation were lack of suitable courses, lack of financial support and family responsibilities. The most highly favored educational method was the short course, but considerable interest was shown in credit courses as many wished to complete a baccalaureate degree and about 10.0 percent were considering post graduate studies. Approximately one quarter were interested in attending university full time and over one third wanted clinical specialty courses. Specific learning needs when categorized and rank ordered showed a significant difference in interest between occupational and physical therapists on rehabilitative techniques and human relations skills, but not on the basic sciences or management of specific conditions. The analysis of opinion about working conditions, education, standards of practice and health care showed general agreement between the two professional groups. Significant differences occurred, however, on items concerned with their professional role and work performance. The physical therapists, although they agreed with the occupational therapists, held a wider range of opinion about these items. It was concluded that every therapist in British Columbia should have the opportunity of continuing their learning through post graduate education; continuing education; In service learning activities; self-directed studies as well as degree completion and re-entry programs. The responsibility for providing these opportunities should be shared by governments; health care institutions and agencies; universities; professional associations and the therapists. On-going investigation of real learning needs of therapists and evaluation of the effectiveness of further education on the delivery of health care are required in order to plan for change and the professional growth of occupational and physical therapists.

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