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State Spotlight: North Dakota

Employment prospects are excellent for graduates in the state.

Occupational therapists of the 21st century need to be flexible and ready to provide service in a wide arena of practice areas, said Janeene Sibla, OTD, OTR/L.

"We bring a different perspective to the rehabilitation team and therapists need to be able to clearly articulate this difference and its importance. I think that OTs need have a clear understanding of our role in health and wellness, including the area of prevention," she stated.

Sibla, associate professor and occupational therapy program director at the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, recently spoke with ADVANCE about occupational therapy education trends in the state.

Lifelong Learners
When asked how information technology has impacted the education of occupational therapists, Sibla responded that today's students and occupational therapists have information available at the tip of their fingers. 

"Students become very adept at searching for and finding information very quickly, which is helpful for evidence-based practice," she said.

Sibla also believes that students and practitioners understand the importance of being lifelong learners based on new information consistently being published.

Searching for the Ideal Job
At the moment, employment prospects are excellent for University of Mary students, and most of the school's graduates have multiple job offers, remarked Sibla.

"Graduates often have a choice of several job offers. They spend more time looking for the 'ideal' job for them and don't feel as rushed to find a job as when there are fewer jobs," she said.

While job offers are abundant, faculty at the University of Mary has reported a gradual increase in the difficulty of locating fieldwork placements, especially in the area of pediatrics. Students often travel significant distances to complete their fieldwork experiences.   

Additionally, "We provide many hands-on, service-learning experiences throughout our curriculum, but these have been long standing as they are part of the mission of the University of Mary," said Sibla.

Implementing Technology into the Curriculum
As far as any new types of technology being introduced into the North Dakota school's occupational therapy curriculum, Sibla noted that the University of Mary offers in-depth education in physical agent modalities, such as TENS, ultrasound, iontophoresis and neuromuscular electrical stimulation. 

"We use quite a range of applications or devices for assistive technology as well," she said. Assistive technology includes use of electronic aids to daily living, Intellikeys, various software including Dragon Naturally Speaking, switches and adapted toys, built-in accessibility options, and aids for vision and hearing loss. 

"We also explore various applications for use on the iPad, as these are quite common in some therapy settings," said Sibla. "Technology is always changing." 

Beth Puliti is a frequent contributor to ADVANCE.


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