Date Presented 04/22/2023

The study surveyed OT and OTA students, OT practitioners, and faculty members on their perceptions of spirituality and soft skills in the OT curriculum and explored feelings of preparedness for discussing spirituality with clients.

Primary Author and Speaker: Megan Jane Butterweck

Additional Authors and Speakers: Patricia A. Henton, Lisa Tekell

PURPOSE: The study aimed to investigate perceptions of spirituality and soft skills integrated in occupational therapy (OT) curriculum and the feelings of preparedness for discussing spirituality with clients.

DESIGN: The mixed-methods study utilized a convenience sample of faculty of accredited university programs, OT/OTA students that completed one full in-person fieldwork experience, and OT practitioners. Three cross-sectional survey instruments consisted of demographic, closed-ended, and open-ended questions on the topic of spirituality and soft skills. Two survey questions were identical in all three surveys to gain an understanding of the perceived importance of spirituality and soft skills.

METHOD: Following university IRB approval, anonymous online surveys were sent through OT social media platforms and emailed to program directors in the continental United States. Data analysis included descriptive statistics, graphical representations, and content analysis.

RESULTS: The non-randomized sample consisted of 44 practitioners, 58 faculty members, and 146 students (N=248). A total of 238 respondents (96%) agreed that spirituality is important in OT practice, and 241 (97%) agreed that soft skills are essential for addressing spirituality. Findings suggested there are gaps in OT curriculum related to spirituality. Although 84% of surveyed practitioners (n=37) reported that the topic of spirituality comes up in practice, less than half indicated their education prepared them to address spirituality (48%; n=21) or provided useful strategies (43%; n=19). Limitations included small samples and inconsistencies in student reporting of in-person fieldwork due to COVID-19.

CONCLUSION: The study suggested a gap between the importance of spirituality soft skills and perceived preparedness by OT curriculum. Further research should determine specific aspects of spirituality soft skills needed in OT curriculum for students to confidently address spirituality with clients.


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