This year the city of Derby celebrates 70 years of educating occupational therapists; Derby is an industrial city which claims to be the birthplace of the industrial revolution. These strong links to industry continue to influence the strong focus of occupation in the current programmes.
The establishing of occupational therapy education coincided with the inception of the NHS and Derby has continued to educate students to be occupational therapists throughout the lifespan of the NHS and now prepares graduates for diverse careers in the field of health and social care.
The first Derby School of Occupational Therapy was established in 1948 by Miss Iris Fitchett in ward 10 of the old Derbyshire Royal Infirmary and at graduation 70 years on the staff still recognise the work of Miss Iris Fitchett through an award for the student who makes the most contribution to the profession throughout their studies.
In 1992 the Derby School of Occupational Therapy became part of the University of Derby. The first cohort in 1948 had nine students and the university has steadily grown and currently there are 90 students in the first year of the 2017 pre-registration. Over the last 70 years the programmes have been responsible for in excess of 4,000 graduate occupational therapists.
70 years ago students completed separate qualifications in physical and psychological specialities which could be amalgamated into a dual qualification of ‘the Diploma of the Association of Occupational Therapists’, studying arts and craft by day, and subjects such as clinical conditions in evening classes with lectures given by local consultants. After their initial studies, students then undertook a full year of clinical practice, before a year in which to complete their studies.
Current students have created an interactive display which has been hosted in the university library throughout April to celebrate 70 years of occupational therapy in Derby, with a focus on getting students from other pprogrammes to focus on what is meaningful to them. This display culminated in a 70 years evening celebration event hosted by the programme staff, which allowed current students, academic staff, graduates and alumni to reflect on the impact occupational therapy education at Derby had had on the profession. Evening talks from key figures included Dr Jo Watson Assistant Director, Education and Research at RCOT and mother and daughter graduates Joy and Sally Bramley. Joy Bramley was one of the first cohort of occupational therapy students and commenced her training in 1949 with her daughter, Sally Bramley also training at Derby 30 years later on the two year accelerated programme. One of our current first year students Emma Rodrigues was particularly interested to meet Joy, as Emma was born in the year that Joy finally retired from her extensive career in occupational therapy. In recognition of the significance of the programmes the university glass tower was lit up in OT green.
Joy explained that 70 years ago they were told they were ‘pioneers’ and believes that pioneering spirit is still embedded in the profession today. So looking to the future, the occupational therapy programmes at the University of Derby continue to instil this need for a pioneering spirit in their graduates, to ensure another 70 years of success is to follow.