Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

150 hours of focused learning.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This foundation occupational therapy theoretical unit provides an introduction to what happens when body systems do not function as expected due to the impact of a disease process, trauma, injury, or genetic anomalies. You will be introduced to terminology which you will encounter in your interactions with medical and allied health professionals and of course with the people to whom you are providing a service. The unit focuses on the effects of illness, trauma and disease and you will consider how these events can impact on an individual's occupational function. The clinical orthopaedic, neurological, general medical and mental health disorders that you will be introduced to are those that are more commonly encountered by occupational therapists and those with which you will need to be familiar. It is important to remember that there are many more conditions that people experience than you can learn in this unit; however, there are some major concepts and knowledge and skills that you will acquire to help you develop as a professional.

The primary aim of this unit is to learn what type of information you need to know about a condition and develop skills in how to find this information.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Differentiate between the impact of acute, chronic and terminal pathologies on occupational function in common medical conditions (ACU Graduate Attribute 5) 

LO2 - Explain aetiology, signs, symptoms, trajectories and medical interventions of diseases/disorders commonly treated by occupational therapists (ACU Graduate Attribute: 4, 5 & 8)

LO3 - Identify common disorders of bodily systems and their medical management across the life span using appropriate terminology (ACU Graduate Attribute 4, 5 & 8)

LO4 - Relate client narratives to specific medical conditions and detail the potential impact of the diagnosis upon occupational performance (ACU Graduate Attributes 4, 5, 8)

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

OTAL Competency Standards

Occupational Therapy Australia Limited (OTAL) Competency Standards developed within this unit:

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

1. Professional Attitudes and Behaviour

1.1  Adopts a client centred approach to practice

1.4   Promotes and facilitates occupation through the application of professional knowledge, skills, attitudes and evidence appropriate to the practice context

1.5   Incorporates best available research evidence and professional reasoning into occupational therapy practice

1.7  Demonstrates professional knowledge, skills, and attitudes appropriate for the working environment

1, 2, 3, 4

2. Information Gathering and Collaborative Goal Setting

2.1 Performs a relevant comprehensive assessment of occupational performance

2.3  Develops, communicates and implements an effective, efficient  plan for occupational therapy intervention

2, 3, 4


Topics will include:

Pathophysiology of body systems

  • Tissue and wound healing
  • Fractures and other orthopaedic conditions
  • Burns
  • Neurological

Incidence and prevalence of acute, chronic and terminal pathology

  • Epidemiological measures of disease
  • Impact of disease on public health
  • Prevalence of common disease in Australia

Aetiology, signs and symptoms of common diseases in Australia

  • Pathogenesis 
  • Common operations and medical investigations

Neurological conditions

  • Peripheral nerve injuries
  • Acquired neurological conditions
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Spina bifida
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders 

Common medical conditions

  • Orthopaedic conditions and trauma
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Congenital heart conditions
  • COPD
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

Introduction to medical psychiatry

  • Epidemiology
  • Aetiology of psychiatric disorder

Medical and surgical investigations, assessments and interventions of common conditions

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Cellular
  • Cardiovascular
  • Respiratory
  • Integumentary
  • Visual
  • Metabolic
  • Endocrine

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

A variety of teaching and learning strategies will be used in this unit including lectures, tutorials, case studies and self-directed learning. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning, to participate actively within group activities and demonstrate respect for the individual as an independent learner. 

Pre-class self-directed learning:

Readings and preparatory activities are used to become familiar with the relevant terminology and knowledge needed to engage with class-based learning.

Condition Profiles: 

Skills will be developed in writing condition profiles which will be created on a specific condition each week using a template provided.  You will also apply an occupational therapy model to a condition-specific case scenario. These condition profiles will become an information resource for future units and can be used on professional practice placement. 

Lectures and 2 online learning packages will provide knowledge required to support the tutorial activities.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to:

  • Gain an overall pass in the total mark from weighted assessment tasks combined. 
  • Students must attempt and submit all assessment pieces.
  • Students must submit evidence (as an appendix to the written assignment) that you have completed the 8 weekly condition profiles and uploaded the profiles into the weekly condition profile drop box.
  • Meet the attendance requirement as detailed in extended unit outline.

Assessment 1: Quiz content focuses on assessing students’ understanding of medical terminology, definitions and factual information on the condition studied that week. The purpose of the quiz is to provide students and lecturers with feedback about student understanding of key concepts in pathophysiology.

Assessment 2: Students work in pairs to complete a comprehensive 3000 word written condition profile on a selected health condition and apply it to a client story.This assesment provides an opportunity to develop skills in obtaining relevant information about any given medical condition that you may encounter in your future practice. Students learn the essential skills of HOW and WHAT to research about any given health condition. Benefit of working in pairs?

Assessment 3: The exam will assess the core learning in the unit including aetiology, signs, symptoms, trajectories and medical interventions of the allocated condition. Identify how an allocated condition impact’s bodily systems and their medical management across the life span using appropriate terminology. Relate a client narrative to a specific medical condition and detail the potential impact of the diagnosis upon occupational performance.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

1. Online LEO quizzes 

Key concepts will be tested 


LO1, LO2


2. Assignment: Client Case Story and Condition Profile (3000 words, student pairs)

Enables students to develop skills in writing condition profiles


LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8

3. Examination (2 hours)

Enables students to demonstrate the core learning undertaken in the unit including aetiology, signs, symptoms, trajectories and medical interventions of the allocated condition.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA4, GA5, GA8

Representative texts and references

Atchison, B & Dirette, D. (2015).Conditions in occupational therapy: effect on occupational performance (5th ed.). Philadelphia; Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Christianson, C. H., Baum, C. M. & Bass, J. (2015). Occupational therapy: Performance, participation and well-being (4th ed.). Thorofare, NJ: Slack, Inc.

American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Ed.). (DSM5). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.

Huether, S., & McCance, K. (2012). Understanding pathophysiology (5th ed.). St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier.

Martini, F.H., Nath, J. & Bartholomew, E.F. (2012). Fundamentals of anatomy and physiology (9th ed.). San Francisco: Benjamin/Cummings.

McCance, K., & Huether, S. (Eds.) (2014). Pathophysiology: The biologic basis for disease in adults and children. (7th ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Mosby.

Porth, C.M. & Matfin, G. (Eds.) (2009). Pathophysiology: Concepts of altered health states (8th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 

Schell, B., Gillen, G., Scaffa, M.E., & Cohn, E. (2014). Willard and Spackman’s occupational therapy (12th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolter Kluwer, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. 

O’Toole, M.T (Ed). (2013). Mosby’s pocket dictionary of medicine nursing and health        professions. (7th ed.). St. Louis: C.V. Mosby/Elsevier.

Stedman, T.L. (2012). Stedman’s medical dictionary for the health professions and nursing (7th ed.). Philadelphia, Pa: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

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