Master of Occupational Therapy Practice students have continued their international mobility studies during COVID-19, thanks to a virtual experience program developed by La Trobe University and its partners in India and Vietnam.
Each year, six to twelve students complete a mobility experience in India with Project Noor (an organisation supporting the health and education needs of low socio-economic families in India) and participate in the establishment of occupational therapy services in Vietnam, at Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy.
These incredibly successful partnerships were brokered in 2016 to offer sustainable opportunities for international exchange in occupational therapy. The program helps to build the capacity of vulnerable people in Asia, including children with disabilities and their families. It also builds student skills and employability.
“Students who participate in these programs develop valuable soft skills such as resilience, teamwork, communication alongside enhanced cultural capabilities,” says founder of the La Trobe Occupational Therapy Asia Abroad Program, Associate Professor Tracy Fortune.
With specialist knowledge and creativity, students have created telehealth solutions for children with disabilities and developed online, culture-specific training modules to support occupational therapists in India.
“We have also developed a suite of audio-visual material to be used by parents of children with special needs, so they can better manage children in their home environment,” says Project Noor Paediatric Occupational Therapist and Managing Trustee, Shabnam Rangwala.
“The materials are family-centred and evidence-based, and are suited to families who may have limited access to services. Project Noor has been able to strengthen its services in the community with the support of La Trobe.”
Occupational Therapy alumna, Ceara Cronin, said that the virtual placement enhanced her “cultural awareness and intercultural experience via technology.”
“I learned to work in partnership with international stakeholders, to be aware of cultural differences throughout the project, and to ensure the resources we developed were appropriate to India,” she says. “I also learned about the truly valuable contribution of telehealth to healthcare delivery.”
The online program has continued in Vietnam in 2022 to offer more students the opportunity to engage in internationalisation experiences from home.
“By finding ways to enhance the learning experiences of our students, we help them become competent, compassionate and globally-enabled practitioners,” says Fortune.
Find out more about studying Occupational Therapy.