Red Deer College is looking to the future with its newest program, offering a two-year diploma for occupational therapist and physiotherapist assistants.
Sharon Hamilton, kinesiology and sport studies department chair, said the idea to offer the program started as a request from Alberta Health Services, which indicated a future need for trained individuals.
“There is a demand for these types of workers in Central Alberta,” said Hamilton. “Maybe not a current demand, but a demand is definitely on the horizon.”
The two-year diploma program provides training for potential assistants in the two fields. Hamilton said the students will likely be more trained to deal with elderly adults but there will also be some training to deal with children.
Hamilton said there are practical placements on board for potential students. Right now, there have arrangements with the hospital and public health care settings, but Hamilton said they are working on opportunities with private clinics.
“There is a trend right now in the area of occupational therapy and physiotherapy where aides or assistants are being asked to do more of the practical hands-on activities,” said Hamilton.
“They’re given guidance and direction from an occupational therapist or physiotherapist and then they’re actually applying the modality or treatment or exercise. They’re doing a lot of hands-on work.”
Red Deer College started accepting applications for the program last week and Hamilton said there has already been some interest. In total, there are 20 available spots in the program.
“A lot of students who come to RDC have an interest in that rehab field,” said Hamilton. “They’re interested in the field and when we mention to students this is another avenue for them, to learn these skills over two years and be able to apply them in a clinical setting, that is quite inviting to them.”
She also said the program isn’t a dead-end for students who may want to take the next step and become a physiotherapist. Red Deer College hasn’t made any formal transfer agreements with universities.
“We’re pretty confident, all of the other colleges in Alberta who have the same program have a two-year block transfer to a couple of different universities, and we’ll be working on the same thing,” said Hamilton.
For more information on the program, call 403-342-3400 or visit the college’s website at www.rdc.ab.ca.