In a forum organized by students from the USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, students, faculty and clinicians gathered in Mayer Auditorium on Feb. 17 to discuss each professions’ roles in varied health care settings.
Florence Clark, USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy professor and associate dean, and current president of the American Occupational Therapy Association, opened the forum by highlighting ways in which the upcoming health care reform regulations will require collegiality among all professions comprising health care teams.
Clark also urged students to consider the ways that future expansion of Medi-Cal coverage will increase demand for health care services by underinsured populations in neighborhoods adjacent to the USC campuses.
Cheryl Resnik, USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy assistant professor and associate chair, and immediate past president of the California Physical Therapy Association, then delivered a speech highlighting the potential synergies between occupational therapy and physical therapy.
“While there are some issues where it looks like PT and OT are on opposite sides of the fence, there are so many other issues where we must band together for the good of our professions,” she said.
After the keynote addresses, four occupational therapist-physical therapist clinical teams presented case studies to illustrate the unique yet complementary roles each profession plays in the treatment progression of patients. Each pair represented a different practice discipline, including pain management, pediatrics, acute care, and clinical research.
The teams also discussed the ways in which workplace professional boundaries can be simultaneously distinct and ambiguous, and emphasized the importance of interprofessional collaboration for enhancing care quality and patient outcomes.
Carissa Villanueva, occupational therapy M.A. student and co-organizer of the forum, said that initiating more communication between students of these two renowned USC divisions is the first step toward organizing future events.
Villanueva said she “hopes students could see how occupational therapy and physical therapy ideally work together in order to form more powerful clinical teams and how that ultimately benefits our patients.”