An occupational therapy degree will be offered in Warrnambool from next year as Deakin University continues to expand its course offerings at the campus.
In a bid to fill the job gap in the healthcare sector, the announcement of the four-year Bachelor of Occupational Therapy comes just weeks after it was revealed first year medical students could study at the campus from next year.
It also follows the introduction this year of the social work degree to the campus.
Warrnambool campus director Alistair McCosh said the course was adding to its growing suite of health offerings which also includes nursing and midwifery.
"This announcement is another step in addressing our health workforce needs whilst also providing opportunities for mature-aged students seeking to return to study as well as year 12 students completing VCE, with more opportunity to remain in our region and secure a world class health degree," Mr McCosh said.
He said there were about 600 students on the campus and that number was set to grow next year.
"Because they're four-year programs, you've got that whole cohort coming through," he said.
The first OT intake at Warrnambool would be for 20 students but that number was also expected to grow.
The university has already employed an OT lecturer who will based at the Warrnambool campus, and new equipment would need to be brought in for the course.
Head of the School of Health and Social Development Professor Jennifer Watts said being able to offer OT in Warrnambool was "fantastic news".
Professor Watts said during a visit to public and private healthcare providers Warrnambool in 2021, it was clear there was significant demand for more occupational therapists and social workers. "And the prediction was that it was going to grow," she said.
Associate Professor Kirk Reed, academic lead for occupational therapy, said there was a high demand for occupational therapists in a range of sectors from aged care, mental health, working with children and rehabilitation. He said the new course at Warrnambool was "very exciting". "It's a great initiative by the university to get this off the ground," he said.
Associate Professor Reed said Deakin had been offering OT in Geelong since 2001.
"We've got a really good reputation in terms of delivering the occupational therapy course," he said.
"Having the course in Warrnambool means we can serve the local community and provide occupational therapy education close to home."
OT is a client-centred profession that aims to help people continue to participate in the everyday activities they find meaningful, such as taking care of themselves and others, working, volunteering and participating in hobbies, interests, and social events.
Associate Professor Reed said there had been a high level of interest in the new social work degree at Warrnambool, and they hoped it would be the same for OT.
"We've known for a long time that there's a healthcare workforce shortage but the but the pandemic has really highlighted that," he said.
Deakin fourth-year OT student Sabrina Lockley, who is doing placement through South West Healthcare, said having the course at Warrnambool would be a great opportunity for future occupational therapists.
She said there were a lot of job opportunities for graduates. "OT is definitely in demand," she said.
Deakin fourth-year OT student Sabrina Lockley, who is doing placement through South West Healthcare, said having the course at Warrnambool would be a great opportunity for future occupational therapits.
She said there were a lot of job opportunities for graduates, and she was hoping to do a hospital rotation in mental health.
"OT is definitely in demand," she said. "We're working with people to engage them in occupations which is everything and anything they need to do, have to do or want to do in life.
"That's why it's so broad...it could be helping someone go to work, in rehabilitation, handwriting with kids or in the disability sector."
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