How We Came to Be

Written by Jean Smith, Joan Currin, and Bernice Bignell in 1987.
This article has been edited.

The history of occupational therapy in Nova Scotia can be traced back to 1920 when Mary Black, an occupational therapist and author of the book, "Key to Weaving" was employed by the Nova Scotia Hospital. She treated World War I veterans under the "Soldier's Civil Re-establishment" department. Since her program was so successful, hospital authorities recommended similar programmes be extended to civilian patients. This did not happen until 1949.

The Nova Scotia Society of Occupational Therapists (NSSOT) was formed on October 19, 1951 with seven of the ten provincial occupational therapists present. The purpose of the society was to promote the development of the profession through education and increased public awareness of occupational therapy. Initially NSSOT held joint meetings with the Nova Scotia Association of Physiotherapists.

In the 1950's, a number of new occupational therapy departments were established, among them the Nova Scotia Sanitarium in Kentville and the Nova Scotia Rehab Centre in Halifax (both 1956). The Victoria General Hospital's occupational therapy department opened in the early 1960's.In 1970, an act passed by Provincial

Legislature brought about the formation of the Nova Scotia Association of Occupational Therapists (NSAOT) [now called the College of Occupational Therapists of Nova Scotia (COTNS)] which permits only qualified occupational therapists to practice in Nova Scotia.In the mid-seventies, NSSOT was registered as a "society" under the Societies Act of Nova Scotia.

Two milestones for the profession were attained in 1979 when two occupational therapists in private practice set up "Community OT Services" and in 1982 when the School of Occupational Therapy opened at Dalhousie University. One of the more prominent members of NSSOT was May Hamilton. In 1953 she helped set up the first rehab centre in Venezuela and later was invited by the government of that country to set up a school of occupational therapy in Caracas named the "May Hamilton School of O.T.". She died in 1978. NSSOT has remained a very active society thirty-six years after its founding.

Four of its founding members, Joan Curren, Bernice Bignell, Fran Merkly, and Jean Smith, became new life members when this article was written.


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