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Table of Contents
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 14-18

Effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on academics of students pursuing masters of occupational therapy in Maharashtra state: An observational cross sectional study

1 Department of Occupational Therapy, Seth G. S. Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Occupational Therapy, Seth GSMC, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission28-Sep-2021
Date of Acceptance06-Feb-2022
Date of Web Publication25-Mar-2022

Correspondence Address:
Henna Vijaypal Khanna
M5 Palm Acres, C Wing, 404 Pratiksha Nagar, Sion, Mumbai, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijoth.ijoth_65_21

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Background: Masters in occupational therapy (OT) is a 3-year course offered by the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences. Maharashtra was one of the worst affected states by the pandemic in 2020 and thus its impact on academics might show greater ill effects. This study was conducted with an objective to understand the health-care students' perspective of how the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic affected their present academic and clinical reasoning skills and what they think about their future career in OT. The literature also suggests that health-care students experienced stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, but hardly any study was conducted on OT students. Hence, this study was conducted to identify the students' perspectives on perceived stress and academics due to the pandemic situation. Objectives: The objective of this study is to understand students' perspective on academics and clinical reasoning skills and future career implications, and their stress levels. To understand how teaching/academics can or has bettered/improved during such time. Study Design: An observational cross-sectional study design was chosen for the research. Methods: The study protocol was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee. A validated semi-structured questionnaire was circulated through Google Forms to all 56 2nd-and 3rd-year students pursuing Master of OT in Maharashtra. The form consisted of 17 questions. Questions were based on how the pandemic affected their academics and the major academic and clinical concerns that the students faced during this period. Student's written and informed consent was attached to the online questionnaire. In addition to this, students were asked to respond to the Perceived Stress Scale to understand their stress levels. Results: The pandemic had an impact on clinical assignment in all 29 (100%) students. Not having enough opportunity to explore their clinical posting during the pandemic was experienced by all 29 (100%) students. The students found a gap in transforming theory into the clinical assignments. Having additional time for academics was stated by 14 (48.2%) students. Severe stress was perceived by 5 (17.2%) students and moderate stress was perceived by 24 (82.7%) students. Conclusion: The study concluded that all students had an effect on their clinical assignments, which may be due to reduced footfall of patients among the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic. Students claimed to have additional time for academics due to reduced patient load.

Keywords: Academics, COVID-19 Pandemic, Occupational Therapy, Stress

How to cite this article:
Palsule SP, Khanna HV. Effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on academics of students pursuing masters of occupational therapy in Maharashtra state: An observational cross sectional study. Indian J Occup Ther 2022;54:14-8

How to cite this URL:
Palsule SP, Khanna HV. Effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on academics of students pursuing masters of occupational therapy in Maharashtra state: An observational cross sectional study. Indian J Occup Ther [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Jun 7];54:14-8. Available from: http://www.ijotonweb.org/text.asp?2022/54/1/14/340898

  Introduction Top

The onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused numerous disruptions in various settings around the globe. Of the measures identified to contain the effects of the said pandemic, social distancing, and community quarantine of varying levels were employed across India. This has led to numerous changes in the ways people go about their daily lives.[1] Literature shows changes in medical education in response to disasters such as swine flu, while locally disruptive, were not as widespread as the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In India, the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, and the country imposed a lockdown from March 22, 2020. These changes have uniquely impacted health-care students' education. For the vast majority of health-care students across the country, all clinical learning had been indefinitely suspended due to the pandemic.[2]

Lack of in-person clinical exposure may pose a challenge to health-care students.[3] However, the uncertain pandemic brought about a lot of insecurities among students regarding the academic upfront.[4] Maharashtra is the worst affected by the pandemic, and thus it might show a greater impact on academics.[5] One of the many settings that are part of occupational therapy (OT) practice is academics. Master's in OT is a 3-year course offered by the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences. The student has the opportunity to pursue their masters in one of the electives. However, this time was the most crucial for present 2nd-and 3rd-year students as 2nd-year students would begin with their elective and allied assignments to hands-on[6] practice in the elective fields, and 3rd-year students would be at the peak of data collection and completion of their thesis. Students opt for postgraduation courses to enhance their clinical reasoning skills and improve their hands-on practice. However, the uncertain pandemic brought about a lot of insecurities among students regarding the academic upfront, the postgraduate students might experience stress due to the pandemic. Thus, the study focuses on OT students' perspective on academics and clinical reasoning skills and future career implications, and their stress levels and to understand how teaching/academics can or has bettered/improved during such time.[7],[8],[9],[10],[11]

  Methods Top

An observational cross-sectional study was designed and conducted on all the 2nd-and 3rd-year students pursuing masters in OT in Maharashtra. The research was approved on April 20, 2021, by the Institutional Ethics Committee of a tertiary care hospital (Approval Number: EC/OA/02/2021). All 56 students pursuing masters in OT in Maharashtra were approached with a Google Form [Appendix 1] from June 5, to June 31, 2021. A brief description of the study objective with a written informed consent document was attached and sent along with the Google Form. Although the study was kept anonymous, personal demographics such as gender and year of course, were asked. It consisted of the demographic details and questionnaire, which was validated by face validation basis relevancy of each question on a Likert scale by five experts with expertise in different branches in the field of OT. When 80% of the experts agreed on the question, the particular question was retained. Based on the suggestion by the experts, future implications in the field of OT were added to the questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of 17 questions and a Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) which included 10 questions where a student had to rate on a scale of 0–4 (0 = Never 1 = Almost Never 2 = Sometimes 3 = Fairly Often 4 = Very Often).

Data were compiled and tabulated using Microsoft Office Excel Sheet (Version 2019) Descriptive statistics such as frequency and percentage were used to describe the categorical data and mean and standard deviation for the numerical data.

  Results Top

All 56 students from 2nd-and 3rd-year Masters of OT were approached of which 29 students (63%) responded to the questionnaire [Figure 1]. It depicts the stress experienced by postgraduate students on PSS [Figure 2]. It shows that students had a fear that because of the pandemic they did not have enough opportunity in turning theory to clinical assignment [Table 1]. It shows how many students had an effect on clinical assignments among the pandemic. Of the total n = 29 students who responded, 17 (48%) students felt that they got additional time to study. Anxious thoughts about the pandemic and fear of contracting the deadly virus or transmitting the infection to the family members were stated by 21 (72.4%) students. The pandemic could exceed OT academic course duration because of the unpredictable COVID waves, delay in the examinations, and lack of patients for enrollment in the thesis was felt by 21 (86.2%) students. The use of tele clinical assignment as a future implication was expressed by five (17.24%) students. Unpleasant clinical learning was expressed by 20 (68%) students. Of all the 29 students, one (3.3%) student felt he was out of routine of his usual college timetable. Coming up with alternate therapy and videos to treat patients as a future implication was mentioned by one (3.3%) student.
Figure 1: Number of Students From 2nd-and 3rd-year MOTH Students who Responded

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Figure 2: Distribution of Students Based on the Perceived Stress Scale. n = 29

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Table 1: Overall Effect on Clinical Assignment Practice.

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  Discussion Top

Various studies have shown that COVID-19 has affected clinical assignments and students worldwide.[12] The most affected aspect was academics and clinical reasoning skills.[13] Our study showed that 12 (41%) students felt academics were affected. Unpleasant clinical learning was experienced by 20 (68%) students. Of all the 29 (100%) students, one (3.3%) student felt he was out of routine of his usual college timetable. Few students claimed they would opt for different modes of therapy in future. The findings were similar to the study conducted by Patil et al. that teletherapy acted as a boon for patient rehabilitation.[14] As patients were apprehensive about contracting the infection, few postgraduate students came up with alternative forms of therapy and videos to treat patients.[15] All students experienced some amount of stress due to the pandemic, either due to academics or clinical challenges faced by them. The results of our study showed that 24 (82%) students experienced moderate stress and five (17%) students experienced severe stress. Now, these were due to academics and clinical challenges. These results were similar to those reported in the literature as they too felt they did not have adequate clinical exposure. All students had feared that due to the pandemic they did not have the opportunity to transfer theoretical knowledge into the clinical assignments. This can be explained by the fact regular work was suspended initially and hospitals catered to COVID patients and thus could be a reason. Some students felt the pandemic could exceed the postgraduate course, this could be because of the lockdown, restricted patients for completion of data collection for thesis work, and delayed exams conducted by various universities.


Data collection was restricted to a specific geographical area, i.e., Maharashtra. Other factors besides academics could be attributed to the stress level. A particular population of masters of OT students in institutions was selected.


More extensive studies with populations across the country should be carried out to get accurate and generalized results. Since it was found that there was increased stress among students, the effect of a counseling program through some student welfare initiatives could be undertaken.

Stress levels among different health-care professionals could be evaluated and compared for a better understating of the stress in health-care professionals.

  Conclusion Top

The study concluded that all postgraduate OT students had an effect on their clinical assignment due to reduced footfall of patients among the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic. The study also showed that students are stressed about their clinical assignment postnormalization of the current pandemic situation. The study also concluded that the tele clinical assignment was the preferred mode of treatment by some students as a future implication.


We thank Dr. Hemant Deshmukh, Dean, Seth GS Medical College, and Dr. Karuna Nadkarni, Incharge , Occupational Therapy Department, Seth GS Medical College for their support.

Financial Support and Sponsorship


Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

Appendix I

Dear occupational therapy postgraduate student, this is an online study: effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on academics of students pursuing Masters of Occupational Therapy in Maharashtra - A student's perspective: an observational cross-sectional study

We request you to answer the attached questionnaire. The study is approved by the institutional ethics committee of a tertiary care hospital. Filling the Google Form would be considered as your consent to participate in the study. Please click on the below mentioned link to access the form and the informed consent document.

1. Which year in masters of occupational therapy are you currently in?

  1. MOTH 2
  2. MOTH 3

1. Which elective are you pursuing in masters of occupational therapy?

  1. Developmental disabilities
  2. Neurology
  3. Mental health
  4. Community-based rehabilitation
  5. Cardiovascular system
  6. Musculoskeletal conditions

3. Which postings have you completed? (Please tick and mention whether you have completed elective (E), Allied (A) or nonelective (NE) (more than 1)

  1. Pediatrics
  2. Neurology
  3. Orthopedic
  4. Psychiatry
  5. Surgery
  6. Plastic Surgery

  1. Deaddiction
  2. Workshop
  3. CVTC

4. Does the pandemic have an effect on your clinical practice?

  1. Yes

  1. No

1. If you answer yes to above question, how? (You may select more than one)

  1. I did not have enough opportunity to explore in my elective posting
  2. I have found a gap in transforming theory into clinical practice.
  3. I am not be able to upgrade my knowledge in the given course of time
  4. others

4. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which aspect are you most concerned about? (You can select more than 1)

  1. Lack of hands-on practice
  2. Restricted/decreased number of patient flow
  3. Completion of thesis
  4. Taking university exams
  5. Lack of research articles and academic presentation
  6. Others

7. Do you feel the COVID-19 pandemic would more likely extend completion of your course?

  1. Yes

  1. No

1. If yes to any of the above please specify how will this effect for future plans? (Please answer in points)

5. Are there any thoughts or worries that are affecting your academics due to COVID-19? (more than 1)

  1. Anxious about contracting the infection and spreading it to dear ones
  2. Unmotivated and feel unproductive.
  3. Feel being out of the loop of the normal routine
  4. Learning experience has become unpleasant
  5. Others

10. How is the nature of practice change since the COVID-19 pandemic (in context to the patient case)? (more than 1)

  1. Decreased flow of patients
  2. Increased flow of patients
  3. Increased of visits per patient
  4. Decreased of visits per patient
  5. Different modes of therapy (for example teletherapy, one-to-one therapy instead of group therapy)
  6. others

11. What difficulties are you facing in the masters of occupational therapy course due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Please specify

12. At present if you are experiencing stress in regards to academics and future practice in occupational therapy due to the pandemic please give reasons why you are experiencing?

13. Please enlist if the pandemic has positive effects on your academics

1. What is your understanding on how teaching/academics can or has bettered/improved during such time

2. Do you feel any difference in clinical practice in 2020 and 2021?

  1. Yes
  2. No

1. How has clinical and academic exposure changed in 2021 with respect to 2020?

  References Top

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Byrnes YM, Civantos AM, Go BC, McWilliams TL, Rajasekaran K. Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical student career perceptions: A national survey study. Med Educ Online 2020;25:1798088.  Back to cited text no. 2
Sharma N, Kaur A. Factors associated with stress among nursing students. Nurs Midwifery Res J 2011;7:12.  Back to cited text no. 3
Limcaoco G, Mateos M, Fernández M. Anxiety, worry and perceived stress in the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary results. Int J Psychiatry Med 2020;14:22-28.  Back to cited text no. 4
Singh C, Sharma S, Sharma KR. Level of stress and coping strategies used by nursing interns. Nurs Midwifery Res J 2011;7:12.  Back to cited text no. 5
Welcome to MUHS; 2022. Available from: https://www.muhs.ac.in/showpdf.aspx?src1=https://intranet.muhs.ac.in/syllabus.aspx. [Last accessed on 2022 Jan 07; Last updated on 2012 Aug 23].  Back to cited text no. 6
Nebhinani M, Kumar A, Parihar A, Rani R. Stress and coping strategies among undergraduate nursing students: A descriptive assessment from western Rajasthan. Indian J Community Med 2020;45:172-175.  Back to cited text no. 7
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Ahmed MZ, Ahmed O, Aibao Z, Hanbin S, Siyu L, Ahmad A. Epidemic of COVID-19 in China and associated psychological problems. Asian J Psychiatr 2020;51:102092.  Back to cited text no. 8
Loh LC, Ali AM, Ang TH, Chelliah A. Impact of a spreading epidemic on medical students. Malays J Med Sci 2006;13:30-36.  Back to cited text no. 9
Alsoufi A, Alsuyihili A, Msherghi A, Elhadi A, Atiyah H, Ashini A, et al. Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical education: Medical students' knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding electronic learning. PLoS One 2020;15:e0242905.  Back to cited text no. 10
Wooliscroft JO. Innovation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Acad Med 2020;95:1140-1142.  Back to cited text no. 11
Quek TT, Tam WW, Tran BX, Zhang M, Zhang Z, Ho CS, et al. The global prevalence of anxiety among medical students: A meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2019;16:2735.  Back to cited text no. 12
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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1]


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