Preparedness of graduates in occupational therapy for clinical practice : perceptions of students and supervisors in a KwaZulu-Natal case study.
Background: Investigating the development of competent occupational therapists through an academic programme and fieldwork placement is an emerging field in South African occupational therapy research. It is an essential aspect of educational research, as new graduates are often required to work autonomously during their community service. Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the perceptions of the final year University of KwaZulu-Natal occupational therapy students and their clinical supervisors’ regarding their undergraduate education and preparedness for independent clinical practice. Methods: Seventeen final year students and seven clinical supervisors participated in focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Document analysis was used to explore the Health Professions Council of South Africa evaluation report of the undergraduate programme and methods used to assess the final year students. The conceptual framework was based on the World Federation of Occupational therapist Minimum Standards for Training Occupational therapists and deductive reasoning was used to analyse the data. Findings: Most final year students and clinical supervisors felt that students were partially prepared for clinical practice and lacked confidence. The students’ level of confidence was linked to the areas of occupation therapy that they enjoyed and their positive experiences during fieldwork placements. Curriculum design and content were some of the areas highlighted as needing review. Conclusion: The overall perception of both the clinical supervisors and the students was that the new graduates would be able to cope with basic clinical practice. However, there were aspects of the curriculum that could be improved to ensure that the new clinicians have more confidence and are equipped to deliver an occupational therapy service that specifically meets the need for diverse African healthcare settings.