BOONE, NC — Beginning in the fall of 2024, Appalachian State University’s new Occupational Therapy (OT) Master of Science program will help address a critical shortage of occupational therapists in western North Carolina.
The program, to be offered through Beaver College of Health Sciences’ new Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, received approval from the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors in April.
“Not only will this program help meet critical rural health care needs,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts, “but it will also help ensure that students who live in North Carolina and want to be occupational therapists can receive cost-effective care. master’s degree that will allow them to live, work and practice in our state”.
Occupational therapists provide specialized care to restore physical and cognitive function and improve quality of life for children and adults with autism, dementia, developmental disabilities, or those who may be recovering from surgery, stroke, or injury. As part of an interprofessional health care team, occupational therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, home health care, schools, and private practices.
“There is a critical need for occupational therapists, particularly to serve patients in rural areas like western North Carolina,” said App State Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor Heather Hulburt Norris. “Our program will be the first master’s OT program from a public university in this region.”
The new program aims to prepare students to become certified occupational therapists in North Carolina, where hundreds of OT openings were available as of this spring, according to Indeed.com. Currently, only three public universities in the state offer an entry-level comprehensive clinical degree in OT, producing approximately 70-80 graduates per year, combined.
The degree program is designed to be cost-effective, allowing students to graduate within six semesters or 66 credit hours. The program will meet the rigorous accreditation requirements of the American Council for Occupational Therapy Education.
“This program expands professional healthcare educational opportunities for students who choose App State,” said Dr. Marie Huff, dean of Beaver College of Health Sciences. “We will place students on clinical rotations here in western North Carolina. We want students to integrate into our communities, if they’re not already part of them, and we want them to stay here because we need them here.”
Nearly three-quarters of App State’s approximately 142,000 living alumni live and work in North Carolina, contributing to the state’s growing economy and quality of life.
Dr. Gary McCullough, associate dean for graduate research and education at Beaver College of Health Sciences and executive director of the Blue Cross NC Institute of Health and Human Services, said understanding and appreciating the rural populations it serves is critical the program. .
“Learning how to work effectively with rural populations is key to helping clients improve the way they function in their particular home and work environments, which are different from the environments of people in big cities with greater access. to facilities and services,” McCullough said.
About App State’s Occupational Therapy Master’s Program
Applications for the first cohort of the program will open in the fall of 2023. The new program will be housed in Levine Hall of Health Sciences, a five-story, 203,000-square-foot facility located in Boone’s Wellness District. The OT program will utilize two state-of-the-art specialized training labs in addition to classroom space.
During clinical rotations, occupational therapy students will be able to provide services to clients visiting outpatient clinics operated by the university’s Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services. Levine Hall’s outpatient clinic includes a simulated apartment, which gives occupational therapists the opportunity to work with patients while practicing their functional skills in a home setting.
Faculty and staff will monitor OT students within their areas of specialization, and “our OT students will have the opportunity to assess and treat clients in collaboration with students in speech pathology, nutrition, social work, and more” McCullough explained. “This type of interprofessional education opportunity is critical to their future success.”
In addition to clinics, Beaver College of Health Sciences has secured collaborations for clinical rotations with regional health care providers Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and Novant Health, as well as Watauga County schools.
The OT master’s program will become the eighth graduate program offered by Beaver College of Health Sciences, joining master’s programs in athletic training, exercise science, health administration, nursing, nutrition, social work and speech pathology and language.
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About Beaver College of Health Sciences
Appalachian State University’s Beaver College of Health Sciences (BCHS), opened in 2010, is transforming the health and quality of life of the communities it serves through interprofessional collaboration and innovation in teaching, scholarship, service and clinical scope. BCHS offers nine undergraduate programs and seven graduate programs, which are organized into six departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders; Health and Exercise Sciences; Nursing; Nutrition and Health Care Management; Recreation Management and Physical Education; and Social Work. The university’s academic programs are located in the Holmes Convocation Center on App State’s main campus and in the Leon Levine Hall of Health Sciences, a state-of-the-art 203,000-square-foot facility that is the cornerstone of the Wellness District. . In addition, the university supports the Blue Cross NC Institute of Health and Human Services and has collaborative partnerships with the Physician Assistant Program at Wake Forest School of Medicine, the Appalachian Regional Health System, and many other health agencies. . Learn more at https://healthsciences.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead meaningful lives as global citizens who understand and embrace their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. Appalachian Experience fosters a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to gain and create knowledge, grow holistically, act with passion and purpose, and embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-faculty ratio, and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.