COVID-19 Pandemic’s Effect on Occupational Therapy Students’ Time-Use and Occupational Engagement On Returning to In-Person Learning

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic emotionally and physically impacted students in occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs. College students lost autonomy and access to meaningful occupations and environments. As students returned to campus, they struggled to navigate and adapt to in-person occupations and how they use their time. This study uses a mixed method descriptive research design to understand how the pandemic affected occupational therapy students\u27 time-use and occupational engagement during the transition to in-person learning. Seventy-three students completed an online survey, while 12 of those students additionally participated in a follow-up time-use diary and interview. Eighty-three percent of the participants agreed or strongly agreed they learned more effectively in-person compared to online, while 65% agreed or strongly agreed to make time to participate in satisfying occupations. Three themes emerged after the thematic analysis of the qualitative data: time compression, lessons from adapting, and autonomy and choice. The findings provide perspectives on occupational therapy students\u27 ability to adapt and manage their time during this transition and offer insight into other transitions in their programs

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