The Post Graduate Diploma in Hand Therapy, which is presented by the University of Pretoria every two years, was the brainchild of Imme Shipham (former HOD of the Department of Occupational Therapy) and Corrianne van Velze (hand therapist in private practice and part-time lecturer at the same department).

The first post graduate diploma in hand therapy was presented in 2001. 24 therapists, either from an occupational therapy or a physiotherapy background enrolled for the course and 20 students obtained their DHT qualifications. In 2003, 20 students obtained their DHT qualification and in 2005 we have 14 students who have enrolled for the course.

The DHT has undergone some changes this year. The main change is that we no longer have occupational - and physiotherapists in the class. The reason for this is that we have received considerable opposition from the Professional Boards of Occupational therapy and Physiotherapy. The two Boards do not agree to a combined course and feel that the two professions should not receive similar training. Therefore, they have not accredited the DHT qualification and therapists are unable to register this qualification at the HPCSA.

Presently the course consists of four block weeks spread out over the year. During these weeks students are required to attend classes and to participate in discussions and practical skills training. Assignments are completed and submitted in between block weeks and the final exam takes place during November. The subjects include Anatomy; Physiology; Pathology; Biomechanics and Ergonomics. The therapy related subjects are Clinical Skills and Advanced Clinical management of hand injuries. In clinical skills, subjects such as joint and neural mobilisation is taught, as well as advanced splinting; wound care; Manual Oedema Mobilisation (MEM), pressure therapy and many more practical subjects. In Advanced Clinical Management of hand injuries, the students present their own cases and make use of the many opportunities to share information among colleagues. Lectures on a variety of topics are presented.

After completing the course, the students have a thorough understanding of the rationale for treatment and have also had an opportunity to improve their clinical skills. They are able to make use of the library and other resources and have also had the opportunity to improve their presentation skills. Many therapists have presented excellent case studies it the past. They are encouraged to present these at other forums such as the annual SASSH congress, which is held during September.

The course is open to any occupational therapist (hopefully physiotherapists will be able to do the course when it is presented some time in the future) with an interest in hands. The therapist should have the opportunity to treat patients with upper limb conditions at their own place of work so that their new knowledge and skills may be applied between block weeks. He/she should have access to internet as all correspondence is sent via e-mail.