HCN News & Notes

Westfield State University to Introduce Occupational Therapy Assistant Program

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University announced the introduction of its new occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program. Housed within the university’s Health Science department, this program is designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed for diverse careers in the healthcare industry.

This initiative represents a significant milestone for Westfield State, as it becomes the sole provider of an OTA degree program in Massachusetts. It is also the only program in the country which allows students to interact with a fully simulated community, with accessible digital spaces such as a coffee shop, hospital unit, and apartment complex, among others.

As occupational therapy assistants, graduates will play vital roles in various settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, and nursing homes. Their work encompasses supporting individuals with disabilities or injuries to regain independence and improve their quality of life.

“Simulated communities are fairly common in hospitals across the nation, but Westfield State is the first university in the country to have one right in the classroom,” said Dr. Karen Slydek, professor of Health Sciences and interim program director. “This is super exciting from the teaching and learning perspective. Our simulated community has a grocery store, a public park with putting green, a car on a road, and a coffee shop in addition to the hospital unit and apartment setup. In addition, we are adding a warehouse work simulation and a subway car seating module. All of these will give students an opportunity to practice skills in areas they may work with clients.”