Occupied with Service

Pacific occupational therapy students meet with teens at Miller Education Center in Hillsboro to discuss goals and start working on life skills.

From a neighborhood school to an orphanage half a world away, Pacific’s School of Occupational Therapy puts community partnerships at the forefront of student learning.

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“It’s not that you don’t know you should do it, you just don’t know how to get it done.

“We help people integrate new techniques into their everyday life.”

And if ever there was an example of practicing what you preach, the School of Occupational Therapy is it. The focus for students is on doing, while learning.

Starting as early as the first year, classes are connected with a host of community organizations providing direct services for people. By the second year, students are more involved in fieldwork as part of their courses. And, in Year 3, students are expected to complete a large project, often including developing a business plan to sustain an occupational therapist in a new or existing program.

“Pacific is amazing, for its size, for all the things we do,” said Professor Rogers. 


For example, she leads one of Pacific’s interdisciplinary, international service trips.

Last summer, she took Pacific’s second group of students and faculty to China to work in a pediatric rehabilitation facility. The project is a partnership between Pacific University, the international organization Fuling Kids International (founded and chaired by Pacific English professor Kathlene Postma), and the Chinese facility, which includes an orphanage and rehabilitation hospital for children with disabilities.

OT, physical therapy and education students worked with the medical professionals who provide rehabilitation care in the hospital, as well as with the caretakers and educators at the orphanage.

“We’re giving them more tools, information and ideas. To the extent that they want that help, we’re trying to be helpful,” Rogers said, adding that she has been amazed by how the Chinese caretakers have taken ownership of the new ideas.

Meanwhile, second-year students Butz and Wandell were two of four OT students who visited Nicaragua this winter on another international service trip. Students and faculty from OT, physical therapy, physician assistant, pharmacy, dental health and optometry programs work in hogars, or homes for elderly individuals without family. For the first time this year, the Pacific group split in half, serving two different hogars in different parts of the Central American nation.

Butz said occupational and physical therapy students teamed up in the hogar where she worked to develop a chair exercise program for residents. One resident was so excited about the program that the students created a guidebook for her and taught her to lead the program after they left.

Butz also said she made a splint out of a water bottle for a person who couldn’t go to the hospital and, in another case, used a water bottle, a box and some foam to create a wedge to decrease a patient’s hand inflammation.

“You figure out how to adapt what you need without everything.


Elder care: New online gerontology certificate program helps healthcare providers serve aging population

In December, Pacific conferred its first gerontology certificates to a class of interdisciplinary health professionals. Pacific's first online-only program, the gerontology certification is a spin-off of the School of Occupational Therapy and seeks to improve elder care.