In 1955 through the instrumentality of the then Senior Medical Officer, two Registered Nurses (one male and one female) were selected and sent on scholarship by the Jamaican Government to England to pursue studies in Occupational Therapy. They returned to Jamaica in December 1958 to introduce the Occupational Therapy programme at Bellevue Hospital , for persons with psychiatric disorders. In the early 60’s one of the two pioneers migrated to Canada leaving one therapist on the island, at Bellevue Hospital
For 14 years there were no other persons sent for training. But one Peace Corp volunteer and one volunteer from the organisation Voluntary Services Overseas came and made their input in the programme during the mid 60’s.
In 1963 three others were sent to pursue studies and at that time it was recognized that Occupational Therapy could also be valuable at the Mona Rehabilitation Centre for spinal cord injuries. On their return, one of the three was placed at Mona Rehabilitation Centre (renamed the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre) and the other two were placed at Bellevue Hospital .
In September 1968 another therapist who had gone to England independently returned and joined the staff at Bellevue Hospital . By September 1969 another volunteer from the Vocational Service programme worked for a two year period. Occupational Therapy seemed to be on the upward trend, with five therapists atBellevue Hospital and one at Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre.
Five other therapists joined the service over the next few years including an Australian. Services extended to the National Chest Hospital treating persons with tuberculosis and heart conditions, and to the Council for Persons with Disabilities. The therapist working with the Council was a pioneer in her own right as she was the first on the island to do domiciliary work. Jamaica at that time boasted the most Occupational Therapists throughout the English speaking Caribbean .
By the late 1970’s the numbers had fallen as the migration bug affected the profession. Many Jamaicans left for the USA , Canada , and to a lesser extent the UKseeking a better way of life and also to work in private practice. Service delivery was affected greatly leaving one Occupational Therapist at Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre and two at Bellevue Hospital .
In 1984 the remaining one of the two pioneers of the profession retired leaving one at Bellevue Hospital one at Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre. Another Jamaican Occupational Therapist, trained in the USA returned to the island and set up a private practice.