Earlier this year, Janet Beilby from Curtin University’s School of Psychology and Speech Pathology won the Innovation in Education Prize for her development of an innovative virtual patient called ‘Jim’. Dr Beilby worked with an international team of researchers to develop the computer-based avatar, which has been programmed with a variety of responses that challenge students to develop the complex skills required in situations such as breaking bad news to patients and managing their confusion and distress.
While developing means of preventing illness is absolutely necessary, exploring how best to support those who have been unable to avoid suffering is equally invaluable. The role of Health Sciences such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech pathology in the advancement of medical rehabilitation techniques has increased hugely in both scale and importance, rendering such disciplines immensely rewarding areas of study for today’s students.
Among the most influential institutions which offer world-class programmes in Health Sciences is Curtin University in Australia. Offering a comprehensive spectrum of nationally accredited degree courses which range from occupational therapy, speech pathology and pharmacy to food science, nursing, and psychology, Curtin is a globally acclaimed university which is ranked among the top 2% of universities across the world (ARWU 2014).
Occupational therapists help people to learn new ways of doing things which they find difficult during or following their recovery from illness. For example, if an individual has lost their hand dexterity, occupational therapists can ensure that they have access to specially adapted knives which allow them to eat with dignity. This stimulating, hugely varied profession offers numerous opportunities for career development. Qualified therapists have the opportunity to work with young children, adolescents, adults and older people in environments as diverse as physical rehabilitation, hospitals, private practices, psychiatric services and schools.
Physiotherapists focus on relieving pain, correcting deformities and enabling people with disabilities to reclaim their independent lifestyles as quickly as possible. Professionals in this discipline are involved with diagnosis, often in close collaboration with doctors, and conduct tests to determine nerve and muscle functionality, cardiovascular and respiratory system functions and assess muscle power, joint function, balance and coordination. The majority of physiotherapists work in public and private hospitals, care homes for the elderly, stroke victim support services, the disability support sector, private physiotherapy clinics, community centres and schools.
Speech pathologists are specialists who diagnose, treat and provide management services to people of all ages with communication disorders such as speech, language, voice, fluency and literacy difficulties; they also support individuals experiencing physical problems with eating or swallowing. Speech pathologists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, community health centres, private health sector, private practice and clients’ homes.
Strong links with industry
All courses offered at Curtin University provide students with strong links to the healthcare sector and various opportunities for clinical placements and practical training to ensure that they graduate fully equipped with the skills necessary to succeed within industry. The 2013 Curtin Graduate Survey showed that 93% of Health Science students found industry-relevant employment within four months of graduating.
Go Global scheme
Curtin students also have the option to increase their international awareness and understanding of other cultures by studying abroad through the University’s award-winning ‘Go Global’ program. Among the countries included in the opportunity are Cambodia, China, India and Vietnam.