Kathryn Diamant (’20 MS OT) completed her final fieldwork experience in the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at Carrboro nonprofit Club Nova by using her training in the field and innovative technology to support the club’s members from a distance in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Club Nova, which uses an international psycho-social rehabilitation clubhouse model, encourages its members who experience mental illness to work together to sustain and manage all clubhouse activities alongside staff through tasks such as cooking daily meals, administration, or managing the nonprofit’s thrift store.
Diamant, from Durham, began her final fieldwork experience in May, several weeks after the onset of the pandemic. With support of clubhouse members and staff, including her supervisor Chris Shore, Diamant collaborated with others to create engaging and worthwhile opportunities for clubhouse members that could be facilitated online via video conferencing platform Zoom instead of in person.
“OT school has taught me to consider all the different aspects of a situation, which I think makes me a good collaborator with members at Club Nova,” Diamant said. “I’m willing to see things from their perspective and then consider how we can work together to support them as well as the community as a whole.”
During her time at Club Nova, Diamant worked alongside Monica Huang (’17 MS OT), her occupational therapy fieldwork educator, who guided Diamant’s time spent at the clubhouse and provided support.
Various member activities have included engaging in anti-racist activism efforts, creating a newsletter, organizing wellness groups, and researching virtual job opportunities. Member Nathan Spear said although he misses in-person meetings, clubhouse activities have provided solace in a time of unrest.
“We’ve been able to apply more practice and action hopefully into the program moving forward,” Spear said. “[Diamant] has been really helpful with that and seeing that vision. She has been very active in my life.”
Spear said he has found the online Club Nova community to be supportive and a positive influence.
“We’re just coming together, and that’s what’s really important in these times,” Spear said. “That is something that Kathryn definitely honed in on, and I hope more people like her will come work with us to get to this place of acceptance.”
Clubhouse member Tanya Pace said her involvement with Club Nova has increased and given her a doorway to continued involvement.
“I don’t think I would feel such a part of the community or would have been able to get to know people to the degree that I know them now were it not for the Zoom platform,” Pace said. “In a lot of ways, this has been a strange blessing for me.”
Pace credited Diamant with creating activities geared toward her interests, such as involvement in job research and wellness meetings.
“We did the research together. I found her to be very motivating and inspiring. She got me through it, and it was really great,” Pace said.
Shore said having the perspective of an occupational therapist at the clubhouse fits well with adjusting the work environment to fit individual or group needs and goals.
“Kathryn went beyond the clubhouse virtual work order day doing outreach with members to collaborate on ways to create new routines and increase accessibility around their homes and over Zoom,” Shore said.
He said members were empowered to share their experiences and lead meetings as they worked collaboratively to design their online work at the clubhouse.
For example, Diamant and Spear worked together to identify and implement opportunities for connection among clubhouse members, in addition to providing practical tools for connection. Diamant implemented a calendar notification system for clubhouse meetings via smartphones, devices which the clubhouse acquired for members who might not have had easy access to technology.
Diamant, who plans to join the Alamance-Burlington School System as an occupational therapist following her board exam, said as a future health care provider, the Club Nova fieldwork experience gave her additional perspective to consider.
“I’ll take with me a whole lot of learning about working with adults in general (which I had never done before), and about mental illness and the challenges that stigma against those with mental illness creates,” Diamant said.
The Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy is housed in the Department of Allied Health Sciences. U.S. News & World Report ranked its occupational therapy master’s program as #10 in the country in spring 2020.