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Therapeutic Sciences (Physiotherapy, Speech Therapy, Ergotherapy)

Also relevant for Orthoptics and Midwifery

Course: Ergotherapy , Midwifery/Obstetrics , Speech Therapy , Orthoptics , Physiotherapy , Therapeutic Sciences
Group of courses: Medicine and Health


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Course objectives:

Students should be aware of the category of gender as a significant factor in the practice and research of non-medical therapy professions in the health sector. They should be familiarised with theoretical explanations from the fields of biomedicine and the social sciences, and with key empirical women's and gender studies in their own field. Students should understand the category of gender particularly with regard to two key aspects of the future development of their professions:

  1. The process of professionalisation and
  2. The provision of appropriate and high-quality therapy, rehabilitation and prevention by physiotherapists (PT), ergotherapists (ET) and speech therapists (ST).

Students should analyse empirical findings from a gender-sensitive perspective and formulate corresponding approaches for action. Depending on the level (Bachelor's or Master's degree), they should gain the ability to evaluate scientific studies in therapy from a critical and gender-sensitive standpoint.

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Teaching content/subject-specific gender studies content:

Gender in the therapeutic professions should be addressed in at least four focal areas. In view of the current situation in Germany, in which the therapeutic professions are only beginning to be reflected and trained in an academic setting, there are more questions than there are scientifically well-founded answers:

Gender relations in therapeutic work

  • History of the professions (gender-specific division of labour in therapeutic professions/medicine)
  • Gender in the current process of professionalisation, e. g. academic reflection.

The therapeutic professions have a long tradition as classic "women's professions". In the 20th century, the non-medical healing and helping professions (PT, ET and ST) emerged as complementary to the (male) domain of medicine. The aim was to fulfil the increasing need for non-medical activities (movement, occupational and speech therapy). This is highly significant for the current phase of professionalisation. Does the increasing onus on academic training imply that the professions are becoming gender-neutral or do they retain their immanent (female) gender? What does this mean for future developments, e. g. the greater emancipation of the therapeutic professions from medicine to be expected as a result of the new academic onus? The gender issue is also important within the profession: what are the focal points of male and female therapists' work? What are the rewards in these areas? Which professional skills are necessary in the specific areas

Aspects of gender-sensitive healthcare

  • Sex, gender, gender inclusiveness, gender mainstreaming: introduction
  • Low-threshold health services (PT, ET, ST) and their clients
  • Gender-typical diagnoses in therapeutic practice
  • Therapy, rehabilitation and prevention provisions for men and women
  • Gender, culture, ethnicity and social stratum in therapy provision.

The focus in this area is on meeting needs with regard to epidemiological knowledge and demographic change. What challenges does health care face today and tomorrow? Which therapies do men and women/boys and girls need? In a gender-sensitive healthcare system, what are the current and future working areas of therapists? What does gender mainstreaming mean in health work?

Gender in concepts of therapy

Gender in the theoretical concepts of the therapeutic professions
Gender in the application of concepts in therapeutic practice

• Gender-sensitive clinical reasoning processes

• Patient/therapist communication

This section deals with therapeutic concepts of the health professions in theory and practice. How gender-neutral are the concepts? Does gender occur explicitly or implicitly (e. g. "Behaviour and experience" in Hüter-Becker's New Model of Physiotherapy, 1997). How effective are therapeutic concepts for men/women? What is the significance of gender in clinical reasoning processes? How do communication processes work between therapists and clients, e. g. non-verbal communication? Are therapeutic techniques chosen on a gender-neutral basis?

Therapy, prevention and rehabilitation research

  • Gender-sensitive research
  • Gender bias in health research.

This area covers training gender-sensitivity in research. Who are the authors of the study? How is the relevance of the question explained? Which test persons were used? How are the findings interpreted regarding possible differences between men and women? With the aid of Eichler's (1999) gender-sensitive categories, students should be trained to evaluate studies critically and to develop gender-sensitive research designs. For example, they should ask whether androcentrism, gender-sensitivity, gender dichotomy or double values are present (for more detailed explanations in German, see Fuchs et al. 2002).

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Integration of gender studies content into the curriculum:

Gender subjects are relevant across the whole discipline. An introductory seminar or lecture on gender should be a conspicuous part of the curriculum. The further content (see points 1-4 in Teaching content/subject-specific gender studies content) could be integrated as described below.

  • Aspects from 1 should be addressed in modules on the history and future development (professionalisation) of the professions.
  • Aspects from 2 are suitable for modules such as Health and Social Policy, Health Sciences/Public Health, Rehabilitation and Prevention.
  • All specialised courses should integrate the gender topics from 3 in theory and practice. Teaching on clinical reasoning and communication/conflict management in particular should involve the appropriate aspects.
  • Aspects from 4 should be addressed in modules on research.

Questions of gender bias are suitable for modules on research methods and quality assurance, for instance. Depending on the degree level (Bachelor's as theory-led and initial qualification, Master's as additional theory-generated qualification), the issues can be reviewed in greater depth.

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Degree Stage:

The topics listed under 1 and 3 (teaching content) should form part of Bachelor's degrees. To aid professional identity formation for "new", university-educated therapists, aspects of 1 should be integrated at an early point in the degree. 3 is recommended for the second part. Content from 2 and 4 should be addressed initially at the Bachelor's level; however, in-depth study is only suitable for the Master's level.