Free
Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Service-Learning in Belize: Perceptions of Occupational and Physical Therapy Students and Alumni
Author Affiliations
  • University of Indianapolis
  • University of Indianapolis
  • University of Indianapolis
  • University of Indianapolis
  • University of Indianapolis
  • University of Indianapolis
  • University of Indianapolis
Article Information
Evidence-Based Practice / Education of OTs and OTAs / Multidisciplinary Practice / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Service-Learning in Belize: Perceptions of Occupational and Physical Therapy Students and Alumni
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510209. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.70S1-PO4045
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510209. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2016.70S1-PO4045
Abstract

Date Presented 4/8/2016

Focus groups were led with a convenience sample of 23 occupational therapy/physical therapy student and alumni participants of service learning trips to Belize. Emergent themes were professional development, cultural influence, knowledge translation, inter- and intraprofessional collaboration, best practice, and sustainability.

Primary Author and Speaker: Candace Beitman

Additional Authors and Speakers: Elizabeth McAfee, Amber Hensley, Leah Giesler, Mariah Linville, Megan Mosier, Emily Gardner

Although there is increasing evidence regarding the benefits of international service-learning and practice for occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) students (Keiter-Humbert, Burket, Deveney, & Kennedy, 2012; Peiying, Goddard, Gribble, & Pickard, 2012), insufficient evidence exists regarding the impact of international service-learning programs in developing countries where OT is virtually nonexistent for interprofessional teams of entry-level U.S. OT and PT students and practicing therapist trip participants, who also act as student supervisors.
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the impact of a brief service-learning experience in Belize for entry-level OT and PT students and alumni from a private Midwestern university. Researchers recruited 23 participants from a convenience sample of OT and PT students and practitioners who traveled to Belize with Dr. Beitman’s group for interprofessional service-learning and service-provision experiences with Belizean service agencies in summer 2013 or 2014.
Researchers gathered data via face-to-face and virtual cohort focus groups conducted posttrip. Semistructured interviews were used to capture participant perceptions of the experience and recommendations for future trips. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Line-by-line coding and constant comparative and member checking methods were used to isolate and revise emerging themes. A priori codes found in the previous Beitman, Gahimer, and Staples (2014) study (professional development, resources, education and training, communication and cultural sensitivity, preplanning, and sustainability) were supported and refined as new insights emerged from the current data.
Current themes isolated were cultural influences, including enhanced cultural awareness and sensitivity and knowledge translation; intra- and interprofessional collaboration, including communication and supervision; sustainability–best practice, including preplanning, timing in curriculum, and in-country support; and student professional development, including creative use of resources, recognition of therapeutic use of self, gifts, and limitations, application to academic content, and development of increased confidence, creativity, and leadership skills.
Students felt they were better prepared than their classmates for classroom application assignments and patient care and gained respect for and articulated ways their skills were different from/complementary to those of the other discipline. Alumni discussed benefits of interprofessional teaming and broadening of professional horizons. The importance of careful preparation and in-country support were emphasized for best practice and sustainability.
International service-learning/practice experiences are highly beneficial in preparing students for practicing on interprofessional teams with a variety of individuals in today’s complex society and for providing therapists with opportunities to work with students and populations in need globally.
References
Beitman, C. L., Gahimer, J., & Staples, W. H. (2014). Value added: Service learning outcomes for physical therapy students and community partners in Belize. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Keiter-Humbert, T. K., Burket, A., Deveney, R., & Kennedy, K. (2012). Occupational therapy students' perspectives regarding international cross-cultural experiences. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 59, 225–234. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1630.2011.00987.x
Peiying, N., Goddard, T., Gribble, N., & Pickard, C. (2012). International placements increase the cultural sensitivity and competency of professional health students: A quantitative and qualitative study. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 26, 61–68.