Master’s in US: Demystified 2

by let's OT

Mayuri Bedekar a university topper during her graduation at the Seth GS Medical College, Mumbai; is presently pursuing her Master’s degree at TUFTS University in Bostion. She also assisted on a research project ‘Systematic review on effectiveness of occupational therapy in Parkinson’s disorder’.

Give me an overview of your core subjects. and your electives. And grade them on a scale of 10 on your exp till now.

MAYURI: –   I will be able to answer this only based on our subjects in the fall semester. The entire year is divided into 2 semesters (credit requirement is 10). I ended up taking 5 credits in the fall semester. Our core courses are like this:

1. Clinical research (core) – It is all about learning the research methods…similar to what we learnt in biostatistics. However, what we learnt in biostats was all theory…and at times we didn’t even understand y and when which test is used. It was about reading the book and writing the exam. Here, we look at it with a different approach. Reading chapters from the book is just accessory. We read a lot of articles, analyzed what type of study it was, what data analysis was done and why….what makes the study stronger or weaker etc. We had an assignment “Annotated bibliography” in which we were asked to annotate 5 articles on a particular research question, and summarize it. This was very helpful, since it encourages u to read articles & understand them from a different perspective. For our final project, we were asked to analyze our professor’s research data, compute results using statistics (using software called SPSS), interpret the results, do literature review to find possible reasons for those results etc and then present it in the class. It is an exhausting class!! Grade – 8

2. Evidence based practice (core) – Dr. Linda Tickle-Degnen, who promotes EBP, takes this class. We learnt what is the meaning of EBP in true sense. We learnt to search databases, understood how to form answerable clinical questions and how to find their possible solutions. Our final project included selecting a particular case from our clinical experience that intrigued us and developing an answerable clinical question based on it. This involves searching for the “best available evidence” to answer those questions…and then understanding how it can be applied or used for the betterment of our client. Also, what is the correct way to communicate the evidence and to whom. This has to be presented to the class. Grade – 8

3. Health & communication systems (core) – This class was all about community based practice, learning about culturally competent care, ICF, AOTA centennial vision etc. We had to make a Fact sheet on a topic every week (this involved searching articles on that topic and making a fact sheet). Our final project is a poster presentation….here, we have to develop a community based rehab program on any population of our choice, or to modify and improve an existing program. The course is for 0.5 credits…but comparatively coursework was too heavy. And the lectures were ok. But did learn quite some new things. Grade – 5

4. Physical dysfunction (elective) – This was all about ortho and neuro. We followed Trombly as our main textbook. And I realised that trombly is a great book!! We also made splints and had a splint critique assignment which was very helpful. We have labs in which we practice techniques or evaluation scales etc on each other. Although it was similar to what we learnt in KEM, the approach was different. It was more ADL based…which we hardly practice in India. Also, we learnt that Brunstorm is an age old & discarded treatment approach; the current approach is task oriented approach. So it gave a new dimension to our pre existing knowledge. Grade – 8

5. Assistive technology (elective) – We had lectures on different assistive technology devices which are used in different conditions. I never knew that there are so many options…besides I never knew thr r so many sensible AT devices other than built up handle, long handled brush, non skid mats etc. Our group project was to make 2 assistive devices for a patient. We had to make the device personalized for that particular child. We had to think how to make it and in a cost efficient way. Then we had to try it on the patient and make modifications accordingly. Final presentation includes a ppt and demo of the devices…critiquing the device & talking about commercially available device of the same kind. This device will then be actually used by the patient!!! Grade – 7 (coz lectures were bit overwhelming…so became boring at times)

6. Hand & upper extremity rehab (elective) – I never knew that I still don’t know so many things about the upper extremity. We had intensive lectures which focused on anatomy, evaluation, different conditions, and therapy. These were conducted by hand therapists from Massachusetts general hospital which is quite renowned. We had splint making classes at MGH too. We had 2 exams which were quite taxing. Finally, we have to make a portfolio in which we have to pick out the most important things from each lecture and condense it on 2 sheets (per lecture). This is supposedly going to be helpful if u need ready reference while working at a hand clinic. Grade – 8

You have experienced learning from teachers here in India and in the US……what are the distinctive differences that you feel……

Teachers are more like colleagues rather than teachers. There is more interactive teaching here. They are addressed by their first names.

Usually or almost when I chat with anyone of you, either you are writing a paper or reading an article …what is the study pattern like…..

Usually, the course focuses on concepts rather than reading a textbook and giving an exam. Theory from text book is only supportive for the final projects. Example, for the clinical research project, we read theory only so that we can do the project which involves data analysis and interpretation of results. In clinical reasoning, we learnt the theory to develop our own clinical question, to search evidence, and learnt how to answer it. Thus, the concepts are taught through doing a project rather than reading just the theory.

‘RESEARCH’ how much is that stressed upon in the master’s programme……

It is stressed almost always. I had to read a variety of articles for every subject till now. Most coursework is based on reading articles, finding supporting literature etc. It really helps in understanding current practice and also helps in achieving professional maturity. Also, coursework is undertaken by experts in the particular field who have themselves published several articles.

What are the new things that you have learnt in US?

1. How to find articles and how to read and interpret them.

2. Evidence based practice methods

3. Assistive technology that I was so ignorant of

4. Many new assessment tools and methods of documentation

5. Writing papers and presenting things to the class

Grade your university on a scale of 10 on following criterion:

1. curriculum/electives: 8

2. Teachers. 8

3. Study patterns. 8

4. Student life. 8