Graduate occupational therapy students gain practical experience in the local community

July 22, 2022

3 female students and 1 professor standing in front of boxes of food at a food bank

Throughout the summer, our graduate occupational therapy students have been completing their fieldwork experience in our surrounding local community – making connections and gaining practical experience.

Nicole Purtill ’22, MOT ’24, has been working at local centers in the community with Tracy Van Oss, clinical professor of occupational therapy; Kaitlyn Remond ’22, MOT ’24; MaryNell Disman ’22, MOT ’24; and Grace DiGiovanni ’22, MOT ’24. These centers include the Keefe Center in Hamden, a community center with many educational, recreational, and social services for town residents, and the Columbus House in New Haven and East Haven, a shelter for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.

“Our primary goal was to run mental health groups for individuals who seek services at the Keefe Center and those who live at the Columbus House,” said Purtill.

While at these locations, students have been able to put their classroom knowledge to work by administering occupational profiles to evaluate the needs of individuals and provide opportunities for group sessions to address needs in the community.

“This is a non-traditional placement as there is not typically an occupational therapist in places like Keefe,” said Purtill. “In class, we learned a great deal about using occupational therapy skills in a community setting, and here we learned about the wide array of work that can be done through an occupational therapy lens to improve overall well-being and increase accessibility in the community.”

The group sessions were promoted to individuals who utilize the Keefe Center’s food bank. The weekly group sessions focused on health and well-being, stress management, diabetes management and reading food labels for nutrition. The students also had the opportunity to assist with the diaper bank at the Keefe Center, where they gave parents information on child safety and occupational therapy.

Due to their efforts, there are some new practices at the Keefe Center, such as the weekly groups as well as making the building and food bank signs more accessible and vision friendly.

“Working in the community with people that you live among is so rewarding,” said Purtill. “We have been able to meet so many people from various backgrounds who live in our community. Getting involved in this way really inspired all of us to want to be more active members in the Hamden community, or any other communities we may be a part of in the future.”

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