Occupational Therapy Graduate Students Reveal Capstone Project Work

News Story: January 3, 2017

Sacred Heart University’s occupational therapy (OT) capstone program was the focus of attention when graduate students showed the results of their work at the University’s Trumbull facility.

Forty-seven students who were enrolled in the 2016 spring/summer and fall semesters collaborated in teams of three to six to develop 11 projects. “Topics were initially chosen lottery-style from a list and included experiences in school or clinical settings, service trips, pilot studies to help improve current practice, current curriculum and interprofessional collaboration,” said Elizabeth Kloczko, adjunct professor in the OT program.

The capstone presentations—which included poster displays shown in a public forum and more formal presentations displayed specifically for faculty in a private session—summed up each team’s efforts, including research, literature review and analysis. “The work not only demonstrates project learning, but also teaches the skill of presenting as well. It’s also a culmination of everything they’ve learned and shows their mastery of the curriculum,” said Kloczko.

As part of the OT program, students also must submit posters for presentation at the Connecticut Occupational Therapy Association for inclusion at its annual spring conference, said Jody Bortone, chair of SHU’s OT program. “We usually have four or five posters from the program represented at the conference.” Students are awaiting ConnOTA’s decision regarding the review and acceptance of the poster presentations.

During SHU’s poster presentations, two related awards were announced. Lisa Kalquist received The Christine Busher Award, named after an alumnus of the OT program who died at a young age. The award was established to honor an OT graduate student who is an exemplary second-career woman. In addition, Laura Bellis and Ryan Hogan received the Ellie & Lorrie Weinstein Award, which supports two students per year with regard to global travel or field work. Ellie Weinstein is an OT, and her husband Lorrie is a former SHU history professor.

Kalquist was on one of the 11 teams presenting project work. She and her teammates focused on “Interprofessional Collaboration for the Development of OT Services for Chronic Pain.” Teammate Lauren Baang explained, “To address various forms of chronic pain, rather than rely on drugs like opioids, which can be addicting, or go to a physician that doesn’t recognize the potential of OT, we recommend patients follow a range of collaborative OT services for treatment. We discovered through our research that there’s both a need and benefits to patients.”

Hogan was also part of a presenting project team that focused on “Effects of Implementing Instructional Wheelchair Cards in Guatemala.” He and his team traveled to Guatemala in October as part of a multi-year initiative to help build wheelchairs and raise awareness about the importance of good posture by wheelchair users. “The posture awareness helps prevent later health issues that might include pressure ulcers and lower back pain. To communicate our posture recommendations, we worked with linguists to develop symbol/picture cards, which were then affixed to wheelchairs,” he said.

Hogan plans to be an OT in a hospital burn care unit and said his experience at SHU has been tremendously helpful in that pursuit. “The trip taught us how to communicate with patients, particularly when language might be a barrier. And our teachers prepared us well with knowledge, caregiver skills and clinical reasoning,” he said. 

To view additional photos from this and other poster sessions this fall, click here.