Humber program celebrates 25 years

Humber’s Occupational Therapist Assistant/Physiotherapist Assistant (OTA/PTA) diploma program is celebrating 25 years of graduates.

The program is recognized as the first in the province to provide formal educational preparation for OTAs and PTAs and is second in the country to be accredited by the Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant Education Accreditation Program (OTA & PTA EAP) in collaboration with Physiotherapy Education Accreditation Canada (PEAC) and the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT).

Students in the two-year program learn to assist in the implementation of rehabilitation treatment plans and programs. Areas of focus include restoring and maximizing physical function and occupational performance, helping clients improve their movement, daily functioning and activity while promoting overall well-being.

Dean Dickenson is the OTA program advisor at Humber and has been teaching the program since 1993. Dickenson says as the profession and health care continue to evolve and improve, so does the program. 

“We teach but we also do a lot of facilitating and case studies so you get real-world experience and model the practice of the professions students are going into.”

Students complete three clinical fieldwork placements, meet with guest speakers, and attend lectures, exposing them to different areas of rehabilitation. With an extensive therapeutic laboratory on campus, students practice on state-of-the-art equipment designed to educate students and meet the changing needs and challenges of delivering effective rehabilitation.

Finding new ways to help students build practical skills, the program has evolved since its launch in 1993. Twenty-five years ago, the OTA and PTA program were offered separately as certificate programs and in 2003, the programs were offered to full and part-time students as diploma programs. With a change in the market for professionals to acquire skills in both occupational areas, Humber began offering a combined OTA/PTA program in 2004.

“The skills and knowledge you gain from this program will allow you to help people who are in some of the most challenging times of their life. It is a privilege to witness and be a part of their recovery as they strive to return to their everyday lives,” says program graduate, Caity Heath.

Heath graduated from the program in 2015 and is now working as an OTA/PTA at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Heath and two colleagues are working to create a common organization for all assistants and therapists in Canada to connect and discuss issues unique to their community entitled the Occupational therapist and Physiotherapist Assistant Coalition of Canada.

“Students are coming into the program with the sole purpose of wanting to help others,” says Lauren Riley, OTA/ PTA program coordinator. “We produce amazing grads and it’s evident when organizations only hire our OTA/PTA grads because they come with a skillset to function well and are self-directed.”

Since the program started, Humber has seen the program’s enrolment numbers and its network continue to excel.

Francesco Costa graduated from both the PTA program (1997) and OTA program (1999) and began working in the health-care sector a few months later after graduating. After working for a few years, Costa continued his studies and now owns a Manual Osteopathic Practice.

“The thing I value most is how well prepared I was to enter the health-care field. I continue to see this today with the students that we accept for placement and from new graduates coming from the program,” says Costa. “Several placement opportunities in different health-care environments provide students with the experience of what to expect as health-care professionals.”

Whether students are looking for a placement or job opportunity, Riley says the program has a strong reputation across the industry.

As the program continues to accept applicants from those entering postsecondary for the first time or continuing their studies, students can bridge their studies and complete the Workplace Health and Wellness program at Humber. Riley adds students can also continue their studies with one of Humber’s partner institutions, helping to explore their career pathways further.

Learn more here.