Better together: Occupational therapy and medical students at the WVU School of Medicine benefit from interprofessional education

Monday, March 4, 2024

Healthcare technology is constantly evolving, setting a unique challenge for healthcare providers. However, students at the WVU School of Medicine have found that the key to staying up-to-date on the latest advances in patient care is collaboration.

To learn more about the current applications of assistive technology, students in the occupational therapy and medical degree programs came together for an immersive, hands-on assistive technology walkthrough.

The event was organized and planned by Shayna Rexrode, a student in the Occupational Therapy Doctorate program. Rexrode was inspired to create the walkthrough after talking with Reagan Sharp, a second-year medical student in the M.D. Rural Track program, about a class she was taking.

“I think it is extremely important that we, as future physicians, are comfortable with the assistive technology that our patient may be using,” said Sharp, who hopes to practice rural primary care medicine in West Virginia. “In one of our classes, we were working on a case that involved a person who used a powered wheelchair. I was talking about this experience with Shayna and how I was interested in learning more.”

Rexrode realized that her OT experience could benefit her peers in other disciplines. She wanted to create a space where students could learn in a collaborative healthcare environment beyond the silo of their expertise.

“In the occupational therapy curriculum, assistive technology is often an area of emphasis, and the Division of OT has an impressive collection of technology that they use to educate students,” Rexrode said. “I wanted to help future healthcare providers learn at least one new thing that would make them a little more prepared to meet the needs of their future patients.”

During the walkthrough, Sharp and nine of her fellow Rural Track students participated in activities at different stations hosted by the OT students. The stations featured different assistive technology devices that are used in rehabilitation including augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices; manual and power wheelchairs; adaptive equipment for dressing, bathing and meal preparation; and adapted toy cars for children to engage in play.

Almara Hutchinson, CCC-SLP, an assistant professor for the Speech-Language Pathology program, lent her expertise by showcasing AAC devices to participants.

“We learned so much - not just about the tools and technologies themselves, but also about the role of occupational therapy in patient care,” Sharp said. “Events like this help us to get a better idea and develop an appreciation for the other professionals who will be seeing our patients. Interprofessional collaboration is essential for better patient outcomes.”

Richelle Gray, OTD, an assistant professor in the occupational therapy program and certified Assistive Technology Professional, collaborated with Rexrode to help her choose which technology might be most beneficial for the students to view.

“Rexrode reached out to me about this idea, and I was thrilled to be a part of it,” Gray said. “She organized an exceptional teaching event for these students. It was very rewarding to share with medical students how they can support occupational therapists through the referral process and give detailed information on the importance of custom seating for clients.”

Rexrode organized the walkthrough as part of her requirements as a graduate-level LEND trainee to complete a project on disability identity and inclusion. LEND, which stands for “Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities” is a nationwide program run by the Association of University Centers on Disability.

The WVU LEND program is run through the Center for Excellence in Disabilities and provides training for students, self-advocates, community members and families to improve the health of children, youth and young adults with disabilities, as well as their families.

“When I heard about LEND, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to supplement my OT curriculum with clinical and interprofessional experiential learning to prepare me to be a well-rounded practitioner,” Rexrode said. “I’m thankful I was able to share the knowledge I’ve gained in the OT program and LEND with my peers.”




CONTACT: Ally Kennedy
Communications Specialist
WVU School of Medicine