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From the Rush Archives: World Occupational Therapy Day (Oct. 27) and our First OT Departments

by Nathalie Wheaton on 2020-10-27T08:00:00-05:00 in Allied Health, Archives, History, Occupational Therapy (OT) | 0 Comments

-Post assisted by Rush Archives Work Study Student Kirsten Petrarca, Doctoral Student in Audiology, Rush University.

October 27 was designated as World Occupational Therapy Day by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists in 2010.

Occupational therapy became an organized allied health profession in 1917. In its early days, it was often considered as a therapy for people with mental illnesses. However, the large number of injured or disabled servicemen returning from service in World War I led to further expansion of occupational therapy resources and departments at hospitals, 1918-1920.

Presbyterian Hospital Annual Report, 1918: Occupational TherapyAt Rush's historic Presbyterian Hospital*, occupational therapy gained prominence in 1918. In the Presbyterian Hospital Annual Report of 1918, Albert M. Day, president of the hospital, stated, "It bids fair to become an important remedial agency." 

CAPTION: "Occupation Therapy" in the Report of the President, Annual Report of Presbyterian Hospital, 1918. [1]

Meanwhile, Rush's other historic hospital, St. Luke's Hospital*, was developing its occupational therapy department around the same time. In 1920, St. Luke’s Hospital’s Annual Report described the aim and value of the department of occupational therapy. According to the report, the occupational therapy department aimed to cure patients while simultaneously improving the mental health of the patients through physical exercises. Patients were also taught vocational skills with the goal of giving them "the point of view that there is no one so ill or crippled that he or she cannot find some form of work from which gain and pleasure may be derived.” 

CAPTION: Report of Department of Occupational Therapy, St. Luke's Hospital Annual Report, 1920. [2]

According to the 1924 Annual Report of St. Luke's Hospital, [3] occupational therapy projects included basketry, weaving, knitting, wood and leather work, beading, toy making, gesso and box painting, and reed work. 

The hospitals' schools of nursing added occupational therapy to their curriculum around the same time. 

CAPTION: Nursing students in the Occupational Therapy department. From the 1920 Annual Announcement of St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing. [4]

Occupational Therapy, St. Luke's Hospital School of Nursing Annual Announcement, 1920To learn more about the history of occupational therapy in the United States, visit the Occupational Therapy Centennial (1917-2017) website, hosted by the American Occupational Therapy Association: [link] [5]

Today's Occupational Therapy Services at Rush offers a wide range of services to assist individuals with a variety of conditions. [6]

The College of Health Sciences at Rush University established a Master's Degree Program in Occupational Therapy in 1980. This master's degree program ended in 2016, and was replaced by an Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program. [7]

Want to learn more about the history of Rush or the Rush Archives collections? Explore the Rush Archives website, or contact the archivist, Nathalie Wheaton, MSLS. Follow us on Twitter: @RushArchives

All documents and photographs belong to the records collections of Rush University Medical Center Archives, Chicago, Ill. Contact the archivist for permissions and full citations.

*Presbyterian Hospital and St. Luke's Hospital merged in 1956, to become Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital. Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Hospital merged with the newly reorganized Rush Medical College in 1969, to become Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center (RPSLMC). RPSLMC was renamed Rush University Medical Center in 2003, to better reflect its status as a leading academic research center. 








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