The occupational therapist as a global citizen: an education program designed to expand the boundaries of occupational therapy practice
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Our world is evolving into a global community. Increased access to travel, diversification of the population, human displacement and migration, and advances in technology contribute to this evolution. Globalization can impact the health and well-being of humankind. Organizations such as AOTA (2017) and WFOT (2018) advocate for occupational therapists promoting health, well-being and occupation as a human right globally (WFOT, 2006). However, therapists are mostly untrained and unmotivated to ‘think globally and act locally’. This problem is due to OTs adhering to traditional, practices and paradigms, learning the profession within a local context with an emphasis on western theories, a focus on individualized care and an inability to recognize human-rights issues with clients. OTs must become global citizens in order to bring relevant health promotion and wellness interventions to people with different worldviews and in global communities. The program was developed into a course for post-professional doctoral students at Boston University to learn skills and confidence to become an agent of global change titled “The Occupational Therapist as A Global Citizen”. This course was designed with an evidence base and theoretical foundation in Self-Determination Theory to improve the students’ motivation and confidence to act as a global agent of change and promote occupational justice. Preliminary findings of the program revealed three main themes in the students’ thoughts regarding global citizenship. Students reported a positive learning experience coupled with a curiosity to expand and apply their knowledge, feelings of motivation and inspiration and an increased sense of responsibility to use their role as an OT to promote occupation as a human right. The proximal goals of this program were achieved in a cost-effective manner. It will be repeated as a full-scale study in 2019 and the project will be widely disseminated to occupational therapy and global health audiences.
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