Feature - Masters Candidate Learns from Emerald Isle

OT student doing research with child


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Master's Candidate Discovers New Perspectives in OT on the Emerald Isle

Michael Braun (MSOT 2009) always regretted not studying abroad in college.

So when an opportunity came up to go to Ireland for his Level 1 fieldwork requirement in August 2008, he didn’t hesitate.

“When I looked at the options, this was one of the best,” he said.

He also received a Beth Roughton Travel Scholarship from the OT program to help pay for the experience.

Fieldwork coordinator Debbie Bebeau had been wanting to set up international fieldwork opportunities for OT students so they could learn alternative perspectives on health care provision in different areas of the world.

Through a personal connection – a physical therapist in Milwaukee who spent a year providing therapy services to people with spinal cord injuries at the NRH hospital in Ireland – Bebeau set up a placement at a Dublin hospital.

“I contacted them and they were great in setting up the opportunity for (Braun) and offering to find housing for him,” she said.

Although he had a primary mentor, Braun was able to shadow 10 therapists in nine OT settings – he learned from a different professional each morning and afternoon in brain and spinal cord injury clinics, pediatrics and outpatient services. He also shadowed therapists on community outings and home visits.

“Being able to see so many OT settings prepared me for course work this year,” he said, after returning to Madison.

Braun was impressed with the rehabilitation training unit where patients can get schooling before going back to work, and the discharge liaisons who are dedicated to making home visits to prepare families and patients before they are released.

Overall, Braun was very impressed with the Irish health care industry, which doesn’t have the documentation and insurance problems found in the States, and the resulting friendlier atmosphere in hospitals and clinics, he said.

“I hope to work in a setting like that,” he said.

Another surprise was the fact that health care professionals don’t have to pay for their professional schooling and they have done a lot of international work.

“A health care system and an education system where it’s free for everyone was interesting to see,” Braun said. “It was nice because I was able to give a 30 minute talk about the health care system in another country when I got back.”

He touted the experience to his peers and first-year MSOT students, encouraging them to “get out of their comfort zone,” he said, adding that he hopes that more students will participate in the international fieldwork opportunities that Bebeau is able to set up.

Students who choose to participate in fieldwork abroad give a short presentation to other students on the overall culture of health care in that country, current therapy techniques and devices, OT education, reimbursement and the overall feel of a clinic.

“Although many students cannot participate in this experience, all benefit,” she said. “This was hopefully just the beginning of the opportunities that we will have for future students.”

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