SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — Briar Cliff has announced the addition of a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program.

“According to Iowa Workforce Development and the Iowa Nursing Association, nearly 13,000 health care workers are currently employed in Siouxland, with more than 3,700 indicating a potential to leave the field. When you combine these impending departures with current openings and upcoming retirements, the exodus could create an even greater workforce shortage of nearly 5,000 health care workers,” shares Dr. Rachelle Keck, President of Briar Cliff University. “Briar Cliff University is here to respond to these needs. To grow our HelpCare™ workforce. And to care for our communities.”

The facility is already home to the university’s physical therapy program and Keck said it is an addition that has been in the works for a while.

“And so it really just does dovetail nicely with the existing programs that we have here and it makes a lot of sense for us to continue to branch out in that area,” said Keck.

Briar Cliff’s goal with the OTD program is to provide interprofessional, occupational-centered, and community-conscious education that is inclusive and student-centered.

“Students will professionally transform as reflective practitioners and servant leaders who critically think using evidence and occupation to promote health and well-being with the individuals and populations they serve,” shares Dr. Cortni Krusemark, OTD founding director.

The University began preparing for the program in 2017, with the Briar Cliff Board of Trustees approving development in 2018. Program costs were supported by donations.

Both the OTD and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs will be located at Briar Cliff’s Mayfair site, where both programs will also provide service through the University’s pro bono clinic.

“Our OTD program aims to keep our communities active and support residents across their lifespans, using participation in occupation to promote their health and well-being,” adds Dr. Todd Knealing, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs. “Our interdisciplinary approach and early clinical practice will further ensure the University is developing caring, exceptionally competent professionals in the field of Occupational Therapy.”

The program is slated to begin this fall semester, and applications will open this June.