Degree, PG courses in occupational therapy at Manipal University have global recognition

When Kanishka Sharma, an intern in Bachelor of Occupational Therapy from the School of Allied Health Sciences (SOAHS), Manipal University, saw a 39-year-old-woman whose hands lacked mobility to even comb her hair or tie a bun recover within 10 days of treatment, she was delighted. “It gave me tremendous satisfaction to see her progress,” she said.

Ruchir Joshi, a final year Master of Occupational Therapy student of SOAHS specialising in Neuro-Rehabilitation, said he treated a 56-year-old teacher with a spinal cord injury who was unable to write. “We made an adaptive device so that the teacher could hold a pen and do minimal writing. This teacher can now sign cheques,” he said enthusiastically.

Occupational Therapy is a field of rehabilitation which deals with the restoration of functional abilities of individuals following physical, neurological and mental trauma or disease. Functional mobility refers to the ability of a person to do daily activities which may range from general self-care tasks such as eating, dressing and combing to specific activities such as writing or using computers. Rehabilitation of patients can take days to months and sometimes even years. Since each case is different, a patient-centred approach is followed.

The minimum qualification for the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (BOT) offered by the Department of Occupational Therapy under the SOAHS is class 12 pass or second year PUC or its equivalent with Physics, Chemistry, English and Biology, with a minimum of 45 per cent marks. The University brings out the merit list according to which students are admitted. But some other institutes in the country also hold an entrance test.

The BOT is a four-and-a-half-year course at SOAHS where the first four years focus on academics. The students will have to do six months’ internship at Kasturba Hospital in Manipal. They can also do a two-year Master of Occupational Therapy, choosing specialised subjects such as hand rehabilitation, child rehabilitation, neuro-rehabilitation or psycho-social rehabilitation. The master’s programme is clinic and research based.

Occupational Therapy specialists can get into general hospitals, specialised rehab facilities such as spinal injury centres, stroke facility and burns rehab centres. Special schools and industries where occupational hazards are high and the field of ergonomics also open up to these graduates.

“This is a recession-proof profession. In addition, Occupational Therapy offers an easy route to travel abroad because there is more demand for the profession across the Western countries and Middle East,” said Shovan Saha, Head of the Department of Occupational Therapy, SOAHS, Manipal University.

The starting salary for a BOT graduate could range from Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000 per month. The graduates have tremendous scope for private practice and can earn a similar amount every month. The starting salary for a MOT post-graduate could be Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000 per month. “It would be better for a student to have a MOT degree if he/she is planning to go abroad,” said Prof. Saha.

The BOT/MOT programmes of Manipal University are accredited by the World Federation of Occupational Therapy.

This entitles the students to take licensing exam across the globe.

‘A bridge’

According to Prof. Saha, Occupational Therapy is uniquely positioned as it is a bridge between two aspects: mental health and physical health.

“We have a component of engineering and a component of biological sciences. We construct a lot of adaptive devices to help patients. In the entire healthcare system we have the highest contact time with the patient,” he said.

Meena Ramachandran, a final-year MOT student at SOAHS, said: “We see a whole variety of cases and decide on how we can bring changes for the betterment of our clients. I love my profession and it has become a passion for me.”