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Course content

The graduate program in occupational therapy here at Sacred Heart University is extremely innovative in its curriculum design, in its approach to learning and in its responsiveness to societal and demographic trends as well as to the changes in the profession's clinical practice arenas.

‌Sacred Heart University, located in Fairfield, Connecticut, offers an entry-level, master's degree program in occupational therapy (MSOT). This graduate program is for people with a bachelor's degree in a field other than occupational therapy. The program prepares students to master entry-level clinical practice skills and develop beginning-level skills in leadership and research in occupational therapy (OT).

- Sacred Heart University was the first entry level, graduate occupational therapy program in the state of Connecticut to meet the Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education's (ACOTE) new mandate that all entry-level occupational therapy education programs move to a post baccalaureate degree.

- The design is highly unique, with a curriculum that utilizes a systems and developmental approach, and strongly reflects a philosophy of humanism, service to others and community-based practice.

- The curriculum utilizes a problem-based learning (PBL). PBL incorporates small group tutorials led by expert faculty members, designed to bridge course content with practice by having students actively engage in the clinical reasoning process through case studies.

- The program emphasizes research, and allows students to develop their skills in a progressive sequence throughout the curriculum, under the guidance of experienced faculty and clinicians.

- It actively prepares students to develop proactive and entrepreneurial skills in marketing occupational therapy services and program development in new practice areas. Faculty/student/clinician collaborations and mentorships are structured into the program to facilitate this unique undertaking.

- The MSOT curriculum incorporates fieldwork and community-based practice opportunities where students actively use clinical reasoning in the design of assessment, intervention and follow up strategies based on evidence, leadership, supervision and management, research and entrepreneurship.

- Students are provided with a strong educational background to address the physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual needs of their clients in order to design occupation based interventions which enable clients to participate in their own living environments of work, school, play, home, society and community.

- We meet with students each semester to receive feedback about the program and track student outcomes upon graduation. For information on progression, retention, graduation rates, please see our program effectiveness data.

Why is SHU's Occupational Therapy Program Unique?
With the growing need for occupational therapists nationwide and increasing public interest in the profession, our program has made the commitment to remain small and intimate. This allows our faculty and students to get to know each other well, and to support ongoing learning for members of our occupational therapy community. The faculty of Sacred Heart University’s Occupational Therapy Program believes that learning naturally emerges from interactions between students, faculty and clients. With this belief in mind, our program is structured to encourage and nurture these interactions.

The primary pedagogical method for our program is Problem Based Learning (PBL) where small groups of students and a faculty facilitator work through a case to foster clinical reasoning. Problem based learning provides educational content while simultaneously creating a forum for engaging in interactions and clinical decision-making typical of team-based health care. Group interactions also support the development of professional behaviors critical to practice.

Our department’s mission, vision, philosophy and curriculum design reflects the values of the University as a whole as well as the educational philosophy of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The acronym P.R.I.D.E., which has been adopted by our program, reveals our commitment to excellence in ourselves, our program, and our students. P.R.I.D.E. stands for principled, responsive, innovative, dynamic, and excellent

Curriculum Objectives
Consistent with our vision of PRIDE, our graduates will:
- Participate in promotion of the profession, professional service and professional activities at local, state or national levels to enhance their professional identity.
- Practice in a safe and legal manner in all interactions and adopt professional behaviors rooted in ethical standards, core values & attitudes.
- Respond to unmet occupational and educational needs in underserved communities through leadership, advocacy and service.
- Identify strengths, passions and individual talents to direct career choices, life-long professional development and innovation in practice and scholarship.
- Deepen the ability to self-reflect on ongoing daily experiences to drive their personal growth, professional development, practice and scholarship.
- Exhibit critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills requisite for entry-level occupational therapy practice and ongoing continued competency.

Curriculum Design and Approach to Learning
The curriculum utilizes a Problem Based Learning (PBL) approach. PBL incorporates small group tutorials led by expert faculty members or clinical practitioners, designed to bridge course content with practice by having students actively engage in the clinical reasoning process through case studies.
Students solve clinical problems through self-directed and peer group study, evidence-based research and discussion in order to integrate a theoretical and foundational knowledge base into the application of occupational therapy assessment and intervention strategies and skills. ‌Students actively engage in and develop the clinical reasoning skills requisite to team collaboration, leadership and evidenced-based practice.

PBL provides students with the foundation for self directed, life long learning necessary for a practicing professional. The curriculum incorporates fieldwork and community-based practice opportunities where students actively use clinical reasoning in the design of assessment, intervention and follow up strategies based on evidence, leadership, supervision and management, research and entrepreneurship. Students are provided with a strong educational background to address the physical, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual needs of their clients in order to design occupation based interventions which enable clients to participate optimally in their own living environments of work, school, play, home, society and community.

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