Dr. Nathan Short, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy and Dr. Heather St. Peters, Assistant Professor of Organizational Leadership, have researched and co-authored an article on “Exploring the Impact of Service Learning in Haiti on the Cultural Competence of Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) Students.” The article was published in the April inaugural issue of the Journal of Occupational Therapy Education.
“As academicians, striving to share knowledge gained through research is a natural outcome of our effort. I think from an occupational therapy (OT) perspective, cultural intelligence is a necessary competency to create trust with clients from diverse backgrounds,” stated St. Peters. “From a human capital development perspective, finding suitable training to prepare expatriates to work in different cultures remains necessary and somewhat elusive.”
The on-going study and resulting article by Drs. Short and St. Peters demonstrated that service learning projects in a cross-cultural setting as a pedagogy extend beyond skill development, such as fitting wheelchairs, to improve cultural competence. Dramaturgical training often creates scenarios that mimic discomfort associated with cross-cultural experiences. The idea is to help the student to become aware of the “sense-making process” and emotional reaction to uncertainty. This awareness should increase self-awareness and self-monitoring in an actual cross-cultural exchange.
“This research demonstrates the multifaceted benefits of providing discipline-specific, cross-cultural opportunities as a pedagogy for OTD students. While the clinical component of the experience sharpens clinical reasoning and skillset, the research findings demonstrate impact on cultural competence, the nuanced ability to build rapport and therapeutic relationship, that students will draw upon as future practitioners serving diverse patients both at home and abroad,” said Dr. Short.
Drs. Short and St. Peters plan to gather additional data again this year and plan to do so for at least one more year to expand the sample size of their research. They are also looking at virtues, as education in OT is emphasizing that candidates demonstrate traits such as altruism, in addition to academic aptitude. As a Christian institution whose mission is for Christ, through scholarship and service, Huntington University’s OTD program has the opportunity to demonstrate that Christian service enhances OT education. Both Short and St. Peters believe that being the first article in the premier issue of an OT journal will capitalize on the opportunity.