LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A new program at UNLV is addressing a critical healthcare shortage in the Las Vegas valley.

There are only 1,200 Occupational Therapists across Nevada.

To fill the need a hands-on program is preparing the next generation of healthcare heroes.

Occupational therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

It’s about mental, physical, and emotional well-being and as these students are finding out the best way to learn is through touch.

From the outside, it appears to be a normal home.

However, inside, it’s a living lab full of eager students in UNLV’s Occupational Therapy doctoral program.

“I think in a lot of communities, not a lot of people know what OT is,” says Jina Jitt a student in the program.

She says she didn’t when she was taking care of her aging grandmother.

That’s what compelled Jitt to pursue the field. “I really thought that she could have benefitted from OT as she was aging,” she says.

The UNLV OT program gives students a hands-on approach and a practical side of education.

“Physical, cognitive, emotional rehabilitation. All of those. We’re a very holistic profession and so we’re looking at all aspects of the human being,” says Dr. Sheama Krishnagiri.

She also tells 8 News Now that it’s about treating the patient and the patient’s family, from infants to the elderly. “To get you back to a meaningful, productive life,” Krishnagiri adds.

Whether that means learning certain skills for the first time or relearning.

“We usually work with babies on this balance beam to practice core strength and footing,” explains Jitt.

Life changes mean adaptation.

“There’s a lot of at-home modifications you could do, to keep the home safe,” she says.

Which is something Jitt and her classmates are learning hands-on.

The therapy is about patients reclaiming their lives, and that even includes the many who are still suffering long-hauler COVID symptoms.

The second class in the program has just started.

As for the first class, they are expected to graduate in 2023.