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Defining their own role

Posted on July 25, 2018
Defining their own role: Rehabilitation Sciences creates new placement opportunity

Rehabilitation Sciences creates new placement opportunity.

The Rehabilitation Sciences Unit at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine has created a new placement opportunity for occupational therapy and physiotherapy students from the Northern Studies Stream at the Anishnawbe-Mushkiki Aboriginal Health Access Centre (AMAHAC) in Thunder Bay.

The new initiative is a collaboration between AMAHAC, NOSM, the Lakehead University Sports Medicine Clinic and the School of Rehabilitation Science at McMaster University.

Occupational therapy and physiotherapy students from McMaster will be placed at AMAHAC in Thunder Bay in a role-emerging format, meaning students will have the opportunity to develop their respective roles within the organization, says Jennifer Turcotte-Russak, Manager of Community Engagement and Integrated Clinical Learning at NOSM.

The placement, which welcomed its first students in June 2018, will focus on needs assessment with AMAHAC stakeholders. The role will focus on Indigenous health, and students will need to consider the social determinants of health affecting First Nation peoples in the North when considering how they can best address the needs of their clients. Learners will also identify relevant resources and evidence to support the proposed roles and approaches to meet these stated needs.

“Occupational therapy and physiotherapy are both very broad areas of practice,” says Turcotte-Russak. “This placement will offer students a unique, exciting and challenging opportunity to—with assistance from on and off-site preceptors—determine how their role can best reflect the current needs and priorities of clients and the health team that serves them.”

The placement opportunity will also promote collaboration between the existing AMAHAC team and the learners in order to build working relationships and capacity, according to Turcotte-Russak. “A key part of this placement is promoting interprofessional approaches to care, and improving knowledge about the role occupational therapists and physiotherapists can play in a team setting like that of the Anishnawbe-Mushkiki Aboriginal Health Access Centre,” she says.

The Northern Studies Stream is a tripartite agreement between NOSM, McMaster University and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The agreement has been in existence since 1989, predating the founding of NOSM by 16 years.

Through the Northern Studies Stream, hundreds of physiotherapy and occupational therapy students from McMaster have participated in academic and clinical education in Northern Ontario. These opportunities focus specifically on advancing clinical understanding and skill development related to Indigenous health and northern practice, including remote and rural environments.

“This strategy aligns with many of the shared key priorities of both the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and McMaster including social accountability, interprofessionalism and Indigenous health,” says Turcotte-Russak. “The new placement at AMAHAC is another step forward in working towards those priorities.”

Stakeholders at AMAHAC, the Northern Studies Stream and in the Rehabilitation Sciences at NOSM will use the knowledge and evidence obtained from the pilot placement to inform the next stages of the initiative, which will focus on broadening the number of partnerships across Northern Ontario.

Other clinical stakeholders will also be invited to join the pilot placement planning committee in order to facilitate expansion of these opportunities. “We’re excited not just about this pilot project, but also about the opportunity to further develop this initiative, which ultimately will help to provide increased access to rehabilitation services here in the North, specifically for Indigenous people,” says Turcotte-Russak.

Read more stories like this in the latest issue of Northern Passages.