PQA - Measuing the personal qualities and abilities of aspiring health professionals

Powis DA, Lyons MJ, Mackenzie L & Bore M (2004)

Selecting occupational therapy students: abilities and personal qualities for practice.

Presentation to ANZAME, Adelaide, 24-27 June

Context: Students entering professional preparation programs in occupational therapy [OT] are typically selected on the basis of academic performance alone. As an adjunct to student selection on academic performance, semi-structured interviews have been adopted by several of the University of Newcastle's health professional programs, including OT and medicine. In the case of the University's medical program, testing for specific abilities and personal qualities has been combined with interviewing and academic indicators, with good outcomes relative to other Australian medical schools. The goal of any educational OT program is to produce the 'best possible' graduates who possess the knowledge, abilities and personal qualities for excellence in the practice of OT.

Purpose: To determine what specific abilities and personal qualities are considered by practitioners to be most important in the practice of OT with a view to including these in selection testing procedures.

Procedures: Stage 1: From a focus group of Newcastle OT academics, a list of desirable and undesirable abilities and traits of OT practitioners was identified.

Stage 2: From this list a questionnaire was developed and completed by 175 OT professionals who rated, added to, and commented on the abilities and traits listed in the questionnaire.

Results: The most highly rated abilities were in communication and problem-solving; while the qualities of respecting others, self-responsibility, and ethical orientation were rated highest. The results suggest that students who have the ability to reason logically, who tend to value individual autonomy, and who can relate easily to people might excel in the OT profession.

Conclusion: This research highlights abilities and personal qualities that could be added to current selection criteria to assist in identifying high quality candidates for entry into OT education.

Learning Outcomes: From this poster, participants will be prompted to consider the adequacy of current student selection criteria relative to the professional competencies required of graduates.