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Occupational and physical therapy seats coming to UNBC

Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark

More occupational and physical therapy training seats are coming to UNBC.

“Expanding UBC’s occupational and physical therapy programs through a partnership with UNBC to create seats in the North will open the doors for more students to pursue careers in health care,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training during a stop in Prince George Friday. “Adding more occupational and physical therapy seats has been a call to action for years. Our government listened and is investing in opportunities to bring education closer to home, because we know that when students live and train in the north, they are more likely to stay and work in the North.”

The additional seats will be created by expanding the current University of British Columbia (UBC) programs with the programs in the North, which is expected to transition to joint UBC/University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) degrees over the coming years. The physical therapy program will also be expanded to the Fraser Valley.

The province is providing $2.2 million to UBC for startup and planning to expand a master of physical therapy program in the North in partnership with UNBC, with the anticipated first intake of 20 first year students in September 2020. The physical therapy program is also expected to expand with 20 first-year seats in the Fraser Valley by September 2022. Physical therapists are often referred to as physiotherapists.

The province is providing an additional $1.1 million to UBC to work toward expanding its master of occupational therapy program in the North in partnership with UNBC, with 16 first-year students in September 2022. The occupational therapy program will also expand by eight seats at UBC Vancouver in September 2020.

“Expanding these programs in Prince George will improve patient-health outcomes for northerners for years to come,” said Dermot Kelleher, dean, faculty of medicine and vice-president of health, UBC. “Together with UNBC, we are grateful to government for making this expansion a reality.”

Occupational therapists support people who are recuperating from or impaired by illness, injury, developmental disorders or mental health difficulties by encouraging rehabilitation through the performance of activities required in daily life.

A physiotherapist plans and implements treatment programs with a focus on prevention and mitigation of disease, injury and disability through therapeutic exercise programs.

Prior to completing the master’s program, most occupational and physical therapy students have a health or science undergraduate degree. They can work in a range of settings within the home and community as well as hospitals, long-term care facilities and recreation centres.

“This is great news for students and communities in the North,” said Dr. Dan Weeks, UNBC president. “We’re excited at the prospect of this partnership and launching a joint northern program to support students who want to pursue careers as occupational and physical therapists. As we’ve learned from the success of our academic programming and alumni community, we know that when we train students in the North, they are more likely to stay in the North.”

Currently, there are 80 first-year physiotherapy seats in British Columbia. This will increase to 120 first-year physiotherapy spaces at full expansion expected by September 2022. The most recent increase was in 2008.

Currently, there are 48 first-year occupational therapy seats in British Columbia. This will increase to 72 first-year seats. The most-recent increase was in 2009.

Occupational and physical therapists are identified as high-priority health professions. Over the next decade, 1,920 job openings in physiotherapy and 1,160 job openings in occupational therapy are expected.

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