Student Evaluation of Anatomical Coursework in the Master of Occupational Therapy Curriculum

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This study set out to examine if entry-level occupational therapy students evaluate the anatomical coursework in a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) curriculum. Although most practicing Occupational Therapists strongly recommend that entry-level students complete a gross anatomy course with cadaveric dissection (Latman & Lanier, 2001), there is limited evidence that explores student’s evaluation and perception of anatomical coursework within the graduate curriculum. Additionally, there is limited evidence that shows how students evaluate the occupational therapy program prior to application and subsequent enrollment (Barfield, Folio, Lam, & Zhang, 2011; Craik & Alderman, 1998). Therefore, the purpose of the study was to determine if occupational therapy students evaluated anatomical coursework during the application and enrollment process. A semi-structured anonymous questionnaire was used to collect data from 50 students who applied and subsequently enrolled in the MOT program at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Most of the respondents were female, primarily English speakers between 19 and 28 years old. When applying to other programs 68% of respondents compared the coursework within the curricula; 83% of those respondents evaluated the coursework both before applying and after acceptance or just before applying. Respondents reported that program curriculum was the third most important thing that influenced their decision to apply and also their decision to enroll when asked to compare to location, opportunity for acceptance, financial cost, program reputation and quality of faculty members. 2% of respondents had never experienced dissection (cat, fetal pig, etc) prior to enrolling and 89.8% of respondents believed that their anatomical training would be enhanced by using cadavers. 98% of respondents believe that all occupational therapy students should have a gross anatomy course and 91.8% of respondents believe that cadaveric dissection is important to anatomical training. Furthermore, 95.9% of all respondents believe that human gross anatomy is important to the occupational therapy profession. When asked to rank the importance of anatomical content the students believed that upper extremity was the most important followed by neck, head, lower extremity, pelvis, thorax and abdomen respectively. Formal evaluation of the student application and enrollment process accomplishes two important objectives. First, it demonstrates that applicants critically assess the curricular design and contributes to the body of knowledge that addresses how students evaluate a program. Second, it provides useful insights on marketing, promotion and recruitment of competitive and capable entry-level professional students. This study has demonstrated that students believe that anatomical coursework with cadaveric dissection is important to their training and to the profession. These data are important because they demonstrate that students consider the anatomical coursework provided within the MOT curriculum. Lastly, this project was unique because it examined students’ consideration of the type of anatomy offered in the entry-level curriculum.