I’m Katie, an occupational therapy student from MGH IHP. I participated in the International Innovation Project 2015 in Helsinki, Finland within an interprofessional multicultural health care team. We were American, Danish, and Finnish OT, PT, and health nutrition students who had lived in various parts of the world; each of us brought our different cultural experiences to the table. Our five-week project, through the Miina Silanpää Foundation, was to develop an innovation to improve home rehabilitation services for the elderly in Helsinki. Given the task of promoting motivation in seniors to participate in and commit to rehabilitation, we targeted the specific challenge of supporting the client in creating meaningful goals. We developed “Elämäni Visio,” in English: “My Life Vision,” a client-centered tool to help seniors recognize and visualize their own goals for function.
Living in Helsinki and visiting home care clients helped us to recognize what would be a realistic and worthy innovation. My teammates and I used each of our professional and personal contacts from different countries to gain feedback as we moved through the innovation process. A major part of the innovation process was actually developing relationships with team members, and this is what I enjoyed most about my time in Helsinki…getting to know my teammates, who had differing backgrounds, languages, and interests, but we all had one thing in common: a passion for health care. We shared food, life experiences, and facts and opinions about each of our countries’ health care systems. I bonded with my fellow OT teammate from Finland on the great value in occupational therapy, and the tragedy of its underuse around the world. We saw an opportunity for global advocacy. And, we incorporated use of activity (constructing the vision board) and an OT assessment (the COPM) into our group project.
Throughout this project, I did not only collaborate with my international team members, but also jumped at the chance to travel around northern Europe. I had never thought I would have this opportunity, so made sure to take full advantage, and felt welcome in each of the countries I visited: Iceland, Estonia, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Holland, and, of course, Finland. When I travel, my mind and heart alter perspective, and I realize how little I know of the world, and the value in exploring it for all its wonders and wonderful people.