Occupational therapy students’ perspectives on the core competencies of graduates to practise in the field of neurology
Background. The South African (SA) health system is characterised by limited resources, high bed turnover rates and a high therapist-to-patient ratio. Patients with neurological dysfunction form a large majority of the caseload of occupational therapists. Feedback from stakeholders alluded to some discrepancies between the content taught in the Stellenbosch University undergraduate curriculum and what is expected within the clinical setting. This raises questions regarding the relevance and applicability of what undergraduate occupational therapists are taught, given the nature and demands of the SA public health system.
Objective. To explore the perspectives of final-year occupational therapy students with regard to the core competencies required for optimal preparation of students for practice in the field of neurology.
Methods. This explorative study used three focus groups to obtain the perspectives of 18 final-year students who had experienced clinical placements in neurology. Information from the focus groups was transcribed and analysed thematically to determine the findings.
Results. Analysis of the data revealed four themes, i.e. core knowledge and skills; attitude; resource and time constraints in clinical areas; and factors influencing optimal learning experiences.
Conclusion. The curriculum should prepare students to be well equipped for the current climate of the profession. While the current neurology curriculum may be viewed as having some positive features, there are some aspects that need to be updated and revised. Key considerations to optimise learning include a more regular interface between clinical areas and the university, scheduling of teaching blocks, and applying relevant teaching methods.