Community Service Occupational Therapists: thriving or just surviving?

Kirsty van Stormbroek, Helen Buchanan


Introduction: Community Service was introduced to improve access to health care for all South Africans, yet little is known about the experiences of Community Service occupational therapists. This article describes the characteristics and general experiences of Community Service occupational therapists.
A national cross-sectional survey was undertaken. Data were collected with an online questionnaire to all occupational therapists completing Community Service in 2013 (n=240). Data were analysed with IBM SPSS Statistics, version 21.0, and responses to open ended questions were post-coded.
A 44.3% (n=104) response rate was achieved. Almost half the participants (44.7%) were located rurally with 51.5% working
at primary level at least some of the time. Referrals were frequently received for wheelchair related services (61.2%), interventions related to child development (49.5%), disability grant assessments (36.9%) and treatment of adults with neurological conditions (39.8%). While some therapists felt challenged (54.2%) and frustrated (58.3%), many (75.0%) reported satisfaction from interacting with clients. Although the majority perceived the profession to be poorly recognised (63.5%), most were proud to be occupational therapists (66.7%).
Community Service occupational therapists are playing an important role in improving access to services but Community Service needs to be situated within a broader plan to extend and strengthen services in-line with government policy.

Keywords: Community service, occupational therapy, novice occupational therapist, professional identity

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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