Why do rehabilitation teaching and research ?
Most of our teaching is by distance learning so we accept students from throughout New Zealand plus a small number from overseas. In general we admit only people who are already qualified health professionals e.g. general practitioners, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, case-managers, exercise therapists and social workers.
The principal qualification that we offer is the Postgraduate Diploma in Rehabilitation. This course is designed for health professionals who want to develop their theoretical and practical knowledge in the field of rehabilitation. Most of our students work full-time and will complete the Diploma part-time over two years. There are four academic papers (120 points) in the Diploma and students typically complete two papers each year over two years. Students who complete the PGDiploma may be eligible to go on to complete a Masters of Health Sciences (Rehabilitation).
We teach a range of papers that include musculoskeletal, neurological, goal setting, cardiac and pulmonary, older persons, personal and psychological factors, family systems, vocational rehabilitation- as well as two core papers devoted to fundamental principles of rehabilitation and the assessment of outcome. Throughout the entire programme the emphasis is on critical thinking - questioning what constitutes good rehabilitation practice and the empirical and theoretical basis for this. Where there are inadequate empirical data to support practice, we point this out and expect students to be able to critically evaluate what they do in their own practice and possibly develop ideas for how our knowledge base in rehabilitation can be improved.
In 2002 we instituted a one year Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences (Clinical Rehabilitation). This course is designed for rehabilitation professionals who want to develop their theoretical and practical skills base. The PGCertificate is funded by Health Workforce New Zealand and consequently it is only open to people who are employed mainly by a DHB where the primary focus is on clinical rehabilitation. For some students the Certificate is a valuable way of updating their skills and knowledge of rehabilitation. For others it can be a stepping stone to more advanced qualifications in the field, such as the PGDiploma in Rehabilitation.
We also offer the chance to complete a Masters of Health Sciences (Rehabilitation) and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
We believe that good rehabilitation is evidence-based. Yet so much of what we do in rehabilitation is of unknown effectiveness - and when it does work we often can't specify which components are the important ones. On an even more fundamental level, it is not always clear how to know when rehabilitation "works". In other words, what actually constitutes a good outcome?
At the RTRU we are vitally interested in conducting research into both the process and the outcomes of rehabilitation. This may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods. Thus while our team has diverse interests as individuals, underlying all our research are two fundamental questions: Does it work? How does it work? Will Taylor calls this "unpacking the black box that is rehabilitation".
Our staff have interests in rehabilitation research on various problems including continence, chronic pain, low back pain, multiple sclerosis, rheumatic disorders (especially gout and psoriatic arthritis), schizophrenia, stroke, spinal cord injury and Parkinson's Disease. We are also interesting in methodological issues such as outcome measurement, classification criteria and qualitative analysis.
RTRU is happy to act as a resource for rehabilitation health professionals who wish to "do some research" without them necessarily being clear as to how to go about it. We may be consulted on issues of research design, methodology and data management. Enquiries from people interested in a research based degree (MHealSc or PhD) are especially welcomed.
Staff of the RTRU have been successful in recent years in obtaining substantial research grants from the following agencies: Arthritis Foundation, Health Research Council, Otago University, NZ Spinal Trust and the Wellington Medical Research Foundation. We have close links with other academic departments at the University of Otago Wellington as well as some of the rehabilitation and medical wards at Kenepuru Hospital and Hutt Hospital. We have close links with the Burwood Academy of Independent Living and the Burwood Spinal Unit and are part of the University of Otago Rehabilitation and Disability Research Theme.