‘The ratio of occupational therapists to Nigerians is one to a million’
Mr. Adeolu Adeoso is the Acting Principal of the Federal School of Occupational Therapy, Oshodi (FSOT). In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, he talks about the important role therapists play, the alarmingly poor number of certified therapists in the country and how to make the course more attractive to combat this problem.
How important is occupational therapy in the treatment of patients and in the medical field?
Occupational therapy occupies a very unique position in the medical field, especially in the mental health team and the health sector in general because we are involved in the care of patients especially in the area of rehabilitation of patients; moreso those who have had or have chronic or severe issues. For this set of patients to be treated by other health workers and for them to be able to make use of their skills and be less dependent on the society in the future, occupational therapists have to come in to rehabilitate, to ensure that the patient is able to sharpen and use his skill again or rediscover lost skill and contribute their quota to their selves, family and the nation.
If a mentally ill person has been treated by the doctors and the symptoms have abated, we are not happy if that patient is not able to be socially involved and reabsorbed and this is when an occupational therapist is most needed, to bridge the gap in ensuring that the individual becomes less dependent on others and is able to fend for himself in not just daily activities but also in the area of vocation.
The number of certified occupational therapists in the country is very poor, the ratio being one therapist to a million Nigerians. What are you doing about this and how do you intend to make this more attractive to younger people?
That is why we have this school which is the first of its kind in the country, to ensure that we train middle level personnel in the area of occupational therapy and it is our hope that our students move on from here to Europe, Obafemi Awolowo Univeristy, Ile-Ife and other universities that have bachelor’s degree in this field. We want our students to aspire to the best of their career and for those that want to work in clinical practice, the chance is there even though it is an evolving one.
However, I know we have to create more awareness for this field and that is what we are working towards. You do not have to be a doctor or nurse to be in the medical field, as medicine is not limited to these professions. I want people to know that occupational therapy is an evolving, lucrative profession in the mental health field.
In your opinion, why is the course not attracting students despite the fact that it has been available for several years now?
As I said, it is an evolving field. The traditional health professions, medicine, nursing and pharmacy have been in existence since the beginning while occupational therapy came later and I believe it may take some time before people realize that this is very lucrative and just as important as being a doctor or nurse.
The rate of suicide and self-harm is currently on the increase. Does occupational therapy have any role to play in curbing this ugly trend?
Yes. Let us consider a patient who suffers from acute depression and has lost his skills for a long time but finally you are able to treat such an individual. The patient needs to rediscover himself and get a vocation or something doing, if not, frustration would set in again as well as helplessness and hopelessness, which are the forerunner symptoms of suicide. Therapists would come in to ensure that this individual is active and functioning so that the issues that you were treated for don’t make a return.
Are there any plans to make this a full degree course in the near future?
Yes there are plans to this regard and with the Grace of God, we shall get there soon. Right now, we are working in conjunction with some universities who are offering this program presently. We wish to move from awarding diplomas to awarding degrees and this shall happen soonest.