Document Type (Journals)
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of health professional students across the world. Although there are a growing number of studies regarding the mental health of other health professional students, there are currently limited studies regarding the mental health of entry-level occupational therapy (OT) and occupational therapy assistant (OTA) students in the United States, especially within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this mixed methods survey study was to understand the mental health status of entry-level OT and OTA students in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to better support their mental health needs within academic programs. The results from 457 participants showed that among OT and OTA students combined, 20.3% (n = 93) were in the severe to extremely severe ranges for depression, 38.3% (n = 175) were in the severe to extremely severe ranges for anxiety, and 29.7% (n = 136) were in the severe to extremely severe ranges for stress. Additionally, the scores for anxiety (0.06, p < 0.05) approached significance indicating that OTA students had higher anxiety scores than OT students. Furthermore, five themes emerged: (1) Occupational Disruptions, (2) Intense Pervasive Negative Feelings, (3) Flexibility and Understanding from Faculty and Program, (4) Awareness, Access, and Availability of Mental Health Supports, and (5) Graduate School Stress Compounded by the Pandemic. These findings highlight the need for targeted mental health supports within occupational therapy educational programs in light of the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alisha Sharma, OTD, MS, OTR/L was a doctoral candidate in the Post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate program at Salus University at the time of this study. She obtained a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at Gwynedd Mercy University in 2020 and Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences at Rutgers University in 2017.
Andrea Tyszka, OTD, MS, OTR/L, SIPT is an Associate Professor at Salus University where she teaches in the MSOT and PP-OTD programs. She obtained her Post-professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy in the health and wellness track at Salus University in 2018.
Declaration of Interest
The authors report no declarations of interest.
Sharma, A., & Tyszka, A. (2023). Understanding the Mental Health of Occupational Therapy Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Occupational Therapy Education, 7 (1). https://doi.org/10.26681/jote.2023.070103
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