Journal Archive > 2002 > March

Tara Bass

Tara Bass
© Mark Morelli

Grad student gains another perspective on occupational therapy

It's 11 a.m., and the pool at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford, Mass., is hopping. Veterans, many of whom have seen combat, slide into the pool, and before long, the surface bubbles with activity as they swim laps.

The veterans use the pool to get their exercise and catch up with old friends. Chances are their conversations do not include Tara Bass. They probably don't know who she is, but that doesn't matter. They know her work.

Bass, a recent graduate of the Boston School of Occupational Therapy (BSOT), spent five months working at the Bedford VA to fulfill one of her fieldwork requirements. "Part of my role at the VA was to help develop policies for things like the pool and the gym, making sure that the veterans had proper access to both. At one point, an outside contractor wanted to rent the gym and the pool, and we really had to advocate for the veterans. We had to balance their needs with those of the hospital, which is a business that needs to generate money," Bass says. "Addressing needs like this as an administrator in a health-care setting was definitely a new experience for me, but it was also one from which I benefited greatly."

The administrative side of OT
This administrative fieldwork experience was a first for BSOT as well. For their fieldwork, students generally go into schools, medical and health-care facilities and other locations, offering hands-on assistance while learning professional competencies. Bass' fieldwork was unique for its non-clinical emphasis and its collaborative focus.

"Unlike other affiliations, where students work to become independent of their supervisors, mine was one in which collaboration was very important," Bass says. "I could not have been successful without the guidance and assistance of my supervisor."

Bass' responsibilities at the VA also included labor management, quality control and program development. "I was responsible for making sure staffing was okay for a given day. I also assisted in getting things like braces, wheelchairs and eye glasses to the veterans who needed them," Bass says. "We had to look at the big picture."

A new appreciation
Bass didn't deal with the big picture alone. She had a lot of inside help. Scott Trudeau, a lecturer at BSOT, is the director of rehabilitative services at the Bedford VA and was Bass' supervisor. "The most enjoyable part of my affiliation was the opportunity to work closely with and learn from Scott Trudeau," Bass says. "He was a great mentor. I could pass ideas by him, tell him how I felt about things, and he gave me great advice."

Now an occupational therapist at HealthSouth-New England Rehab, Bass credits her time at the Bedford Veterans Administration Hospital with altering how she views occupational therapy. While it is a helping profession aimed at developing an individual's ability to handle everyday tasks and activities, there is also the administrative side that makes it all possible. "From this work, I have gained a new appreciation for all that is involved in occupational therapy," Bass says.

BSOT administrators hope the pilot project at the Bedford VA will pave the way for more fieldwork offerings that include health-care administration. "I think the fieldwork program benefited directly from this work," says Mary Evenson, academic fieldwork coordinator at BSOT. "It can serve as a model for future fieldwork opportunities so that students who are interested in health-care administration can take advantage of this type of learning experience."

Bob Bochnak covers the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences for the Tufts Journal.