I had a few moments last night and having been out of the blogging sphere for a month or so (is it truly that long – I’m surprised Karen hasn’t been after me!)…. Anyway, I checked out the Salford Occupational Therapy blog and came across Sarah’s reflections on what it was like to be a student in 1991. I had a wee giggle about her descriptions of her learning and how she managed about the internet and this sparked off my own reminiscing!

Like Sarah I still believe much of what I learned 26 years ago is still relevant today (I wonder how many other professions can say that?). I learnt about activity analysis, I learnt about assessment, I learnt the OT process, and I learnt to think about what it was I was doing and why! And yes I handwrote my assignments, but I don’t think there were as many words as Sarah’s!

Much of our learning came from our fieldworks – one full year of our three years was on fieldwork placements and some of us (not me).. were on fieldwork 3 weeks into our first term (semester) on the course! We worked with senior OT’s (well in those days anyone who had worked more than 5 years was considered to be so knowledgeable and so senior!)… and learnt much about the reasoning process (we didn’t know it was called that then).

We also learnt much from our tutors – as they provided us with the important knowledge deemed necessary for us to understand. Anne Cronin Mosey’s text on Three Frames of Reference for Mental Health (1970) had recently made it into New Zealand.. and we knew the tutors were about a chapter ahead of us in the text – but at least they were exposing us to this level of thinking!

So although Sarah wonders how she managed without the internet, email and computers.. I’m left wondering not only how did we manage with computers, but how we managed without a library etc etc. Oh.. we did have a library, but we never needed to go there and were certainly not directed to go there. In fact I can’t remember where it was in my first two years, the new building was opened only in our third year. We bought our OT texts – an English one in first year (McDonald).. and Willard and Spackman (5th ed)… along with Mosey’s texts (Three frames of Reference and Activities Therapy) and with a few medical/surgical texts, this is what we used!

I remember in my last year, last week going to the library and copying articles from the journals as I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to access them ever again! (unless I lived in Wellington and even then – when I did in my third year as an OT.. it didn’t even cross my mind to go there and it was only two minutes along the road from me at one point!!!). I’m not sure if I ever read the journal articles I copied but I did keep them for a long time!

You may think I spent heaps on copying – but there were so few journals at that stage – or so few that we had access to… probably from memory it was the American Journal of Occupational Therapy and  the British Journal of Occupational Therapy and of course the New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy! The number of occupational therapy texts we could probably count on one hand. Developments in the profession were driven by the Americans, British and possibly the Canadians…

Do I think my learning was somewhat limited – I guess yes in that it was limited to what the tutors thought was important to tell us, show us or give us. We weren’t encouraged to read more widely, or even to source material more widely. We were encouraged to rote learn what it was we needed to know to pass the exams, or presentations.  In practice the supervisors showed us what we needed to know, and checked our understandings through what we did probably more than what we were able to explain.  Does this mean our qualification wasn’t great? I think not.. it prepared us very well for the world of practice that existed then… but the practice has changed and therefore the way in which learning is organised has changed. In addition, our means of communication has changed, and therefore the way we deliver learning also changes.  And this is not new – I think I only need to go back about 10 years before I trained, and occupational therapy was taught within a hospital setting!

And I also know the programme was good as a good many of the therapists I studied with are still in practice and these therapists often are excellent supervisors – their knowledge is sound, as is their ability to clearly articulate the OT process for student occupational therapists.

So thanks Sarah for the posting which took me back down to memory lane! Was it simpler – sure it was – the amount of knowledge appeared more finite, the settings we worked in more alike and less variable, there was strong OT teams and you came back to your nice safe OT dept whenever you felt threatening, and….patients were in hospital longer, therefore more rehabilitation happened under the guidance of other occupational therapists.  So yes I guess it was simpler!