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A phenomenological exploration of the experiences of patients who received treatment from occupational therapy students

Rene L Padilla, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


A phenomenological approach was used to describe the experiences of four patients who received treatment from occupational therapy (OT) students on Level II Fieldwork. Data were collected through face-to-face and telephone interviews over the period of nine weeks. An iterative, fluid process of questioning, information-giving, analysis and verification took place throughout the study. Each participant's transcript was initially handled individually. A phenomenological reduction process took place in which transcripts were divided into meaning units (MUs) that denoted shifts of meaning. Similar MUs within a transcript were grouped and summarized in a phrase or word. Follow-up questioning regarding these MUs took place. MUs were “horizonalized” into meaning clusters of non-repetitive themes in order to obtain a situated meaning structure for each research participant. Finally, patterns and relationships of meaning across all situated structures were identified in order to obtain a general meaning structure of participants' experiences with OT students. ^ The meaning themes of disability as detour, rehabilitation as the road back, and the OT students as part of the scenery emerged from the reduction process. Three sub-themes surfaced in relationship to the last theme: (1) Participants perceived OT students as indistinguishable from the rest of the OT staff; (2) Participants perceived students as inexperienced and nervous; and (3) Participants did not consider the work of students as critical to their treatment. ^ These meaning themes represented participants' personal memories and interpretations of events that took place during their hospitalizations, and may not necessarily reflect the students' actions or the policies of the rehabilitation hospitals where participants received treatment. The participants in this study accepted the students' presence as part of the routine of the rehabilitation hospitals, but believed they could have accomplished the same outcomes without the students' assistance. Participants identified existential struggles they experienced during the rehabilitation process and recommended OT students learn to explore related existential and emotional dimensions of occupation. This suggests that student education in the use of the phenomenological method in the therapeutic process may yield very different, collaborative intervention plans and goals. Ultimately, if meaningfulness is to be a measure of intervention, the process would more accurately reflect the client's lifeworld and the ideals of occupational therapy. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration

Recommended Citation

Padilla, Rene L, "A phenomenological exploration of the experiences of patients who received treatment from occupational therapy students" (2003). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3102572.