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A discourse culture is a group of people who communicate about a specific subject, cause, or field of research. The aims and characteristics of members of a given discourse group can be defined by close study of their correspondence and interaction methods. This study looks at how the objectives and features of the occupational therapy culture are expressed in the community dialogue by writing and other means of contact used by members.
To get a deeper understanding of the occupational therapy debate culture, I first determined what precisely one wants to know about occupational therapy as a discipline. I then observed the community and interviewed one of the members (denoted as J in the interview transcript) to gain an understanding of the practice of occupational therapy and communication and interaction methods used by occupational therapists.
I: Who is an occupational therapist?
J: An occupational therapist is one who helps persons with different disabilities to improve their abilities to perform tasks of daily living and cope with the environment. As occupational therapists, we also help the patients to develop, to recover and enhance their skills needed for daily performance through therapeutic use.
I: What are the individual goals for one to become an occupational therapist?
J: For one to become an occupational therapist, he or she must have the main goal of reducing limitations, improving patient’s self-care skills to perform daily life activities, and to help the client cope with his or her environment. Therefore, you should be ready to have this common goal of improving people’s lives through appropriate interventions.
I: What are the required skills to become an occupational therapist?
J: First, one requires to have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. The candidate also needs to have an interest in working closely with people, good team working skills, social perceptiveness, monitoring skill, patience, and determination since all these are key to achieving the above goals.
I: How do you keep track of your patient’s progress as occupational therapists?
J: Occupational therapy is a long-term intervention that requires monitoring of the patient over a period of time to see how they are progressing with the therapy. In order to achieve this objective, we work as a team and with the help of forms such as rehabilitation daily progress note, we can easily monitor our patients’ progress.
I: Do you have a discourse community of occupational therapy?
J: Yes, we occupational therapists have a discourse community.
I: Are you a member?
I: How long have you been a member and why did you choose to be part of the community?
J: I became a member of the occupational therapy discourse community at the time I joined this career…Mmmh…That was seven years ago. I joined this community because it is a way of improving professional skills and promoting teamwork towards a common goal in occupational therapy practice.
I: How do you communicate among yourselves and with your clients?
J: We communicate through meetings, emails, phones, and online chats.
I: Do you use a specific type of style to communication in writing or spoken language such as jargons, forms, notes, texts, etc.?
J: Yes. Just like any field, there is a way of communication and common terms used. For example, you will hear us saying activities of daily living, disability, impairment, and so on. [Pauses]. You know.
I: Thank you so much for your time.
An extensive examination of the community and interviewing one of its members revealed that the characteristics of the occupational therapy community were consistent with the linguist John Swales’ six criteria for a discourse community (Ramanathan and Kaplan 172). First, it was evident that occupation therapy discourse community had common goals that every therapist works towards achieving. It is important to note that having common goals in a discourse community enhance commitment of the members, which Ren et al. observed to be brought by a sense of identity and importance as well as a common bond attachment that are associated with discourse communities (378). The common use of terms, such as health, well-being, disability, activities of daily living (ADLs), promotion, functioning, and impairment by the members in their communication show their common goals. In particular, these terms are in line with the statement that occupational therapy aims to promote health and well-being by preventing or reducing the impacts of impairments such as physical disability (Schell et al. 7). To achieve this common goal, therapists also have individual targets as the interviewed member noted that her goal as a therapist is to assist people who seek occupational therapy services to strengthen their abilities to cope with daily life activities.
The members of the community also used various mechanisms to communicate among themselves. They utilized communication channels, including online platforms, emails, memos, staff meetings, and telephone. The communications involved discussions about occupational therapy practice and other issues affecting the practitioners, which required comments, voting, and asking or answering questions. Through the online platform, the members used texts and images to post their concerns and provide feedback and information that is also a participatory mechanism in discourse communities (Ramanathan and Kaplan 174). The use of forms to keep client records such as occupational therapy hand evaluation, discharge summary, and rehabilitation daily progress note, was also an important way of communication, especially in patient care involving a team of occupational therapists.
Genres, lexis, and threshold level were also identified as characteristics of occupational therapy discourse community. The community mainly used magazine articles as a genre of communicating its aims to the members. However, the members were also encouraged to embrace other genres such as credible websites, blogs, and journal articles. Similarly to other fields, the community had specific lexis or jargons that are pertinent to the profession and practice. The most notable ones included “functional status,” “ADLs,” and “therapy.” It is important to note that these terms can also be used in other health-related fields such as psychology. Lastly, all the members had at least an undergraduate degree in occupational therapy. This threshold level of education is important in discourse communities to ensure relevance and meaningfulness to the community and the clients (Borg 400). In particular, threshold level enables the members of occupational therapy community to possess adequate knowledge and skills to provide occupational therapy services.
Members of the occupational therapy discourse community share common vision, goals, and aspirations that guide individual practice. The main goal is to assist the patients to develop and improve functional skills necessary for daily life activities. The occupational therapy discourse community also had other Swale’s characteristics of a discourse community, including defined mechanisms of intercommunication, participatory mechanisms, communication genres, possessing specific lexis, and having membership threshold level.
Borg, Erik. "Discourse community." ELT Journal, vol. 57, no. 4, 2003, pp. 398-400.
Ramanathan, Vai, and Robert B. Kaplan. "Genres, authors, discourse communities: Theory and application for (L1 and) L2 writing instructors." Journal of Second language Writing, vol. 9, no. 2, 2000, pp. 171-191.
Ren, Yuqing, Robert Kraut, and Sara Kiesler. "Applying common identity and bond theory to design of online communities." Organization Studies, vol. 28, no. 3, 2007, pp. 377-408.
Schell, Barbara A., Glen Gillen, Marjorie Scaffa, and Ellen S. Cohn. Willard and Spackman's occupational therapy. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.
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