(And who is Isabella Luyet?? )
It’s no secret that interests in the practice area of women’s health are growing in the profession of occupational therapy. And within that broad scope of topics, maternal mental health and wellness are emerging as a predominant area of interest.
Since The Women’s Health OT’s original publication in 2019, countless OT students have reached out to this author seeking to understand their role, their options, and their path forward in working in the pre-, peri-, and postnatal domain. Daily, Facebook groups that cater to the conversations of similar topics abound with eager seekers looking to connect with established practitioners.
One thing is clear, OTs are here to stay on the topic of maternal wellness.
However, while this practice area is growing in popularity among students entering into the field, there remains little evidence-based research supporting OT intervention in clinical practice. This does not imply that there is not substantial literature available for evidence-informed practice, only that there have been little to no high-quality studies conducted in the language of our profession to anchor our value to this area of practice specialization.
That’s a problem.
To substantiate the role of occupational therapy in intervention strategy for the postpartum experience, we must first publish research conducted by and in the language of occupation.
The problem is, in order to build an evidence base that speaks to the occupational impact of the maternal transition, we need to have ideal tools to capture that impact in just that – occupation.
As I continue to dig deeper into the practice and research of maternal interventions, the idea that our profession needs a tool to capture our perspective and to help guide our treatment interventions has become a bit of an obsession for this author.
Turning an idea into action.
In September of 2020, I was approached by a bright and ambitious OTD student looking for an expert mentor for the completion of her capstone project. I am always delighted to connect with students with interests in women’s health topics! It so happened that this student researched out to me when I was ruminating at length on the idea of what it would require to validate just such an intervention tool. Serendipity!
The Maternal Wellness & Quality of Life Occupational Inventory (MWQLOI) was born of a creative insight to fill gaps in our professional toolbox and to promote the occupational therapist’s intervention framework in this area of practice.
Allow me to introduce you to Isabella Luyet:
My name is Isabella, and I live in Conway, Arkansas, with my husband and son, William. I am an occupational therapy student at the University of Central Arkansas, and I will graduate in August of 2021 after completing my doctoral capstone project. My current areas of interest in occupational therapy include women’s health, early intervention, and school-based therapy.
What was the source of your inspiration to choose ‘Women’s Health’ as a theme for your culminating research project?
When I first started planning my capstone project, I was pregnant with my son, so I became very interested in the role of occupational therapy in women’s health. Prior to this, I was interested in early intervention and OT in the neonatal intensive care unit, so I feel that it was a natural progression for me to explore women’s health as the two are so closely related. As I began exploring the topic more, I felt a call towards maternal mental health, especially as a new mom completing my fieldwork rotation while transitioning into the new roles and expectations of motherhood. Conducting a literature review revealed an immense need for research on this topic, and I felt a desire to contribute to improving the care women receive when they become mothers by partnering with an established professional to complete this project.
As a current student of occupational therapy, what do you find missing from your academic platform in relation to the topics within the Women’s Health landscape?
I feel that our program provides a great foundation for occupational therapy practice as a generalist because we are offered opportunities to learn about a variety of practice settings and clientele populations. This does not leave much room for learning about specialties, especially emerging areas like women’s health. Because of this, I have learned most of what I know about women’s health from independent study, preparing for my capstone project, and speaking with mentors working in this field. I would love to be involved in educating other students about occupational therapy in women’s health because I feel that it is such an important area that does not receive much time in the spotlight in academic settings. I am excited to share the findings of my research with other students in my program at the end of the capstone time period.
How is the capstone project you are working on aiming to help fill gaps in the OT profession for generations of OTs to come?
The goal of my capstone project is to help develop a new, occupation-based assessment tool to guide practice in maternal mental health. There is currently no similar standardized assessment that considers occupation, so I feel that developing a valid and reliable tool will provide clinicians with an easier, more streamlined way to assess occupational challenges and develop intervention plans to help their clients overcome these challenges. My goal is that this will allow more women to overcome barriers to occupational engagement that may present in motherhood, especially during the period of maternal transition. I also hope that this project, along with future developments and research, will help move women’s health from being an emerging, niche area of practice to become a routine standard of care in years to come. I strongly believe that women’s health care will blossom and expand as consumers and clinicians continue to advocate for change.
This spring semester, Isabella Luyet, OTS, will be organizing the research study with the support of the occupational therapy department at the University of Central Arkansas to complete the initial face validity and reliability testing to substantiate the MWQLOI. Conducting this initial research study will serve as her culminating capstone project to complete an entry-level OTD program. The study is currently under IRB review, and the execution of the project will proceed accordingly.
If you are an occupational therapist practicing in the domain of postpartum care, maternal mental health, or early intervention, and you have a desire to participate in the reliability testing of the MWQLOI for this research study, please contact email@example.com
Are you also an OTD student working on a research project that speaks to the practice area of women's health? Do you want to share what you're working on? Don't be shy! The Women's Health OT wants to showcase the inspirations of the students entering into our field.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the opportunity to have your research topic showcased.