We do not require a minimum number of volunteer hours in an OT setting. The application to Puget Sound Occupational Therapy Program does require that you submit a letter of reference from a registered occupational therapist who has observed you in a health care setting long enough to make a fair appraisal about your promise as a future OT. This reference should be uploaded via your OTCAS application by 8.59 p.m. PST December 15.
The more pre-requisite courses you have completed at the time of application the better. Strong showing in these courses is a plus for you in our selection process. They do not all need to be finished at that time, however. They must be finished before the start of the fall semester when you begin OT courses.
No. Only in very exceptional circumstances would we accept demonstrated expertise in the pre-requisite topic in lieu of the course itself. This expertise would have to include both theoretical and practical aspects of the subject.
This may sound simple but it is important: follow the directions on the essay portion of the application. It is an important piece. Be sure to answer all questions, proofread, and show us your best writing. Make sure your essay communicates who you are as a person by being creative, unique, or humorous. Your essay will likely be stronger if you get exposure to the breadth of the profession by observing or talking to occupational therapists in diverse treatment areas. Your essay should be submitted directly to
Follow the directions for the letters of reference carefully. You must submit one letter from a registered occupational therapist who has observed you long enough to be able to speak to your potential as a future therapist. One letter must be from a former professor who can address your characteristics and abilities as a student. The third letter must be from an employer. Select these people carefully. They should be people who know you well enough to complete an honest and persuasive reference for you. All letters of reference are to be submitted via OTCAS by 8.59 p.m. PST December 15.
For 2013-14 tuition is approximately $41,000 for first year students and $33,000 for second year students. While you are performing Fieldwork II you do not pay tuition, but rather a clinical affiliation fee. This fee is currently $4,420 for the six months of your off-campus placements. As you calculate the size of the investment in your professional graduate education, remember that living expenses are modest in the Tacoma, Washington vicinity. Rent is significantly lower than in larger U.S. cities. In addition, students have off the summer between their two years (to work or travel) and can still finish the entire program, including fieldwork, in 28 months.
In addition to the regular financial aid available to any graduate student there are a small number of fellowships given by the department to first year master students whose applications were exceptionally strong. These fellowships are renewable for the second year of study if you are making satisfactory progress in your courses. For second year students who are taking courses full time there are a few OT departmental scholarships available which are granted to students on the basis of their academic performance and contributions to the program, including to the learning of peers. There are also a few special work study positions within the department for teaching assistants in the functional anatomy, neuroscience, pediatric/adult neuro and performance adaptation courses. These are usually held by second year students. There is also a course assistant assigned to the technology lab who is either a first or second year OT student.
The OT program is four semesters in length (fall, spring, fall, spring) plus six months of full-time fieldwork in hospitals, schools, or health clinics. Attendance is not required during the summer between the two academic years. Thus, the program can be completed in as little as 28 calendar months (with a three-month long summer off).
Beginning with the first semester you will do clinic visits, client interviews, and possibly some hands-on interactions, over about twelve hours. In the third semester you will perform a job analysis outside the OT department that requires observation, measurements, and communication with clients and supervisors. zDuring this same semester you will also participate in a community-based clinical treatment course covering mental health issues. The theory/lab treatment courses of the second, third and fourth semesters include several laboratory assignments that include client contact (about 24 hours) and you will provide consultation to ongoing physical therapy clinics. In your final semester you will be enrolled in two applied clinical treatment courses covering both pediatric and adult conditions, where you will evaluate and treat clients in the on-campus clinic.
OT students are divided into small sections of 5-6 students, with each section supervised by an experienced OT clinician. Students are assigned clients, both adult and pediatric, who require evaluation and treatment for a variety of occupational limitations. After an early semester orientation period students conduct the evaluations themselves, under the supervision of their clinical instructors. The students compose an intervention plan and, with the approval of their instructor, implement that plan over the course of a 10-week period. Client progress is closely monitored during that time, and adjustments are made to the plan as indicated. Re-evaluation, writing a discharge summary and a home recommendation plan are learning activities that close out the semester.
OT and PT students perform consultation assignments that require interaction in each other's clinical courses. OT and PT students complete a wheelchair prescription assignment together. They usually also interview each other for a scope of professional practice assignment in their first semester. OT and PT students become involved in each other research projects on occasion. The respective student organizations (SOTA and SPTA) also hold joint events.
Part-time study is not recommended, although it is possible, with the approval of the OT faculty. You must fill out a petition, including the exact planned course of study over (usually) three academic years.
What would be best will vary considerably according to the student and the type of work. During the first semester we strongly recommend that students not commit themselves to working more than 15 hours per week.
The library resources at Puget Sound, including electronic access to health care literature databases, are excellent. The library has expanding holdings in books and professional journals on site. Through fast lending programs you will be able to access sources from libraries throughout the northwest region. Inter-library loan, a slightly slower means, gives access to holdings throughout the country. Access to full-text databases and electronic journals is excellent. The School of OT/PT at Puget Sound was one of the first programs to create easy access to electronic information over the world wide web, and continues to be an innovator in health informatics services.
Computers are used extensively by OT students for writing papers and clinical documentation, for information searches over the worldwide web, for analyzing data by means of statistical programs, for experiencing interactive video tutorials and simulations, for conduction out-of-class discussions, for taking examination, and for preparing classroom presentations. Puget Sound has both Macintosh and IBM-compatible personal computers.
In the master's program the focus is evenly split between research and theory of OT, on the one hand, and clinical application, on the other. Our on-site clinic, unlike in many OT schools, allows our students to interact with clients beyond mere observation to encompass actual clinical evaluation and treatment. The MSOT track has a particular focus on research through its three-course sequence culminating in a rigorous masters level research project. The MOT policy/advocacy/leadership track includes an in-depth needs assessment and culminates in an extensive- program development project conducted in the community.
In the student's first semester we include a course entitled 'health care systems' that is kept very well up to date with changes in health care delivery and even includes a focus on alternative medicine and therapies. Throughout our curriculum students encounter client-centered practice through the program's emphasis on the "insider's perspective." The course of study also contains a module on ergonomics, including its scientific foundations in biomechanics. In the final semester all OT students take a health care policy and management course in which they will encounter the legal, financial, and personnel issues of practice. The faculty are also closely monitoring changes in reimbursement legislation as well as the corresponding changes in clinical practice, so that our curriculum can provide our students with the best possible preparation for the health care conditions they are likely to encounter in their future professional practice. (For more detail, see Preparing for Practice Tomorrow.)
First, all of our professors who teach treatment courses continue to practice with clients. Several OT faculty are certified in special systems of treatment such as neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT) and sensory integration (SI). All tenured faculty and many clinical faculty continue to do research and to publish in professional journals. The latest edition of Willard and Spackman's OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY (edited by Crepeau, Cohn & Schell, 2009), the standard OT professional textbook, includes chapters by three Puget Sound OT professors. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy editorial board usually includes one or more Puget Sound OT professors at any given time. Our adult neurological treatment course integrates motor learning theory and contemporary task-oriented approaches with more traditional methods (NDT, PNF, and others). Our pediatrics course teaches the latest in infant assessment techniques, as well as "best practice" models for inclusive treatment of children and their families. Our faculty hold expertise in most research methodologies, including advanced quantitative and qualitative research approaches.
The most distinguishing feature of our MSOT program is the enriched experience in designing and conducting independent research. Through faculty mentors, MSOT students are encouraged to conceptualize, plan, get approval for, and carry out an independent research project. Some MSOT students pursue the option of conducting a research project initially conceived by a faculty member, or one whose data are pre-existing. Many of these projects involve collaboration between the student and OT clinicians. The MOT (policy/advocacy/leadership) track is distinguished by the experience of creating an occupational therapy service program proposal, under the guidance of a faculty member and with the involvement of clinicians or agency staff.
The emphasis on high quality writing present throughout the curriculum is especially prominent in the masters projects. A very high proportion (20 percent) of MSOT student projects at Puget Sound have been ultimately published in scholarly, refereed, professional journals, or have been presented at state or national professional conferences. MOT student program development projects are already in use in the community and have been disseminated both in journals and on Internet sites, and we anticipate that some of these projects will result in grants that create new OT services.
Each OT class in the new, all-masters curriculum, consists of fewer than 30 students (about half in each track), with two classes attending the program on campus at any one time. With the equivalent of 6.5 full time faculty, the faculty/student ratio is currently about 1 to 7.
In OT courses the number of students in the classroom at a given time ranges from 10 to 30.
In terms of computers, assistive technology devices, splinting equipment- absolutely. Because we cooperate in research equipment purchase with the exercise science department, we have a very well equipped exercise physiology lab with motion analysis capabilities. What we do not own, we often borrow from vendors for temporary student use. We are housed in the Center for Health Sciences (Weyerhaeuser Hall) opened in the fall of 2011, this state-of-the-art building houses the Occupational and Physical Therapy programs, along with the departments of psychology, exercise science, and neuroscience.
During your second semester in the OT program you will be asked to review the many Fieldwork II sites we have contracts with and to select your top choices, including alternates. Our full-time academic fieldwork coordinator will then match available sites to students' requests as closely as possible. Most students will experience two, three-month placements at different types of health care facilities, so as to give the most comprehensive preparation for the certifying examination.
Fieldwork II is begun after the completion of four semesters of coursework. Many students begin right away in summer; others wait until the following fall to begin so that they may spend the summer traveling or being with their children. Some students also enroll in a third, optional Fieldwork II placement, so that they may experience occupational therapy in a specialty setting such as early intervention for infants & toddlers, injured worker treatment, burns rehabilitation, spinal cord injury rehabilitation, or hand rehabilitation.
UPS OT maintains a contract for students to do an optional third fieldwork placement in Zanzibar, Tanzania. It is difficult but not impossible to create special arrangements in other international locales. Our academic fieldwork coordinator must find a registered occupational therapist in the given country who is certified under the regulations of the United States National Board of Certification for Occupational Therapy, and who is willing to supervise a fieldwork student from the US. In the past, the qualifying countries have been restricted to Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of South Africa. That, however, does not preclude other possibilities, including non-English-speaking countries, if the student is fluent in the language. Students opting to go to Zanzibar make a commitment to study Kiswahili between the first and second years of the program.
In the past three years (calendar years 2009, 2010, 2011) a total of 77 students graduated from the Puget Sound occupational therapy entry-level masters program. 75 of these students took the national certification test of NBCOT during this period, and 65 passed it on the first try (an 86.7 percent first time passing rate, compared to a nationwide rate of 81.6 percent). Since 2000, when a new version of the examination was begun, Puget Sound graduates have passed at first sitting at a rate 5-10 percent above that of candidates from the U.S. as a whole.
The faculty's research interests fill the spectrum from cross-cultural studies of persons with schizophrenia, assessment of infant-caregiver interactions, the application of assistive technology devices, the use of interactive video patient simulations for learning clinical reasoning, and access to the internet by practicing clinicians. A list of faculty publications in scholarly journals is available on request.
The clinical expertise of the faculty includes adult rehabilitation, infant developmental assessment and early intervention, school-based occupational therapy, mental health programs for children, adolescents, and adults, home health, skilled nursing facilities, hand therapy, industrial safety, and injured worker rehabilitation.
Occupational therapy is one of the most diverse of health care professions. Jobs are available in hospitals, public school systems, rehabilitation facilities, home health agencies, hand therapy clinics, assisted living facilities, residential treatment facilities, injured worker clinics, community-based early intervention programs, and in corporations and communities performing preventative health care and wellness programs. Part-time, full-time, traveling, and on-call work is available.
The most satisfying aspect of an OT career is making a positive impact in the lives of clients served. Occupational therapists work closely with persons experiencing occupational limitations in the broadest possible sense- for medical, physical, cognitive, emotional, experiential, and spiritual reasons- to maximize their participation in daily life through the pursuit of meaningful, purposeful activities. Therapists must be excellent observers of human behavior, good problem-solvers, great listeners, and persistent advocates for their clients, in order to diagnose the causes of their clients' limitations and to find the most effective means of collaborating with their clients to achieve meaningful solutions. Effective occupational therapists display a combination of creative and pragmatic approaches, along with excellent interpersonal communication skills, in working with people.
There are still an abundance of opportunities for specialization in OT once you have graduated, passed the certification exam, and begun entry level practice in the field. Probably the most frequently pursued specializations are in techniques of adult rehabilitation, pediatric assessment and treatment, and hand therapy. In addition, there are hundreds of topics that therapists study through continuing education that span the gamut from biofeedback and myofascial release to advanced cognitive rehabilitation and driver training.
The possibilities for working in different settings with unusual populations also abound. There continue to be unmet occupational needs of people in assisted living communities, Native American health centers, prisons and detention centers, industrial and corporate settings, in rural communities, and in school systems. The education you will receive as an occupational therapy student will provide you with the physical skills, professional attitudes, and critical thinking tools to make a significant contribution in many settings for many people who have not traditionally been served by OT.