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New Home Health Bill Recognizes OT
December 23, 2015 4:55 PM by Brian Ferrie

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), Bethesda, Md., has issued a press release revealing that on Dec. 8, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced the Medicare Home Heath Flexibility Act (S. 2364). This bill would allow home health agencies the flexibility to use the most appropriate skilled rehabilitation professionals to open cases and conduct initial assessments when related exclusively to rehabilitation cases and when skilled nursing care is not provided. Currently, occupational therapists are unable to conduct initial assessments in the home health setting.

"This discrepancy causes unnecessary inefficiencies and barriers to providing patients with effective, timely, and appropriate therapy services in the home health setting," said Christina Metzler, chief public affairs officer for the AOTA. 

The press release continued that occupational therapy has long been a valued component of the home health care team due to therapists' expertise in identifying home safety issues and in establishing routines to maximize client compliance with the plan of care. This legislation recognizes those contributions and seeks to address the arbitrary restrictions currently in place.

"As our healthcare system continues to evolve and our country's population ages, we must strive to maximize individuals' ability to live fuller, more independent lives," says Metzler. "Patients are increasingly receiving care in home and community settings where occupational therapy plays a pivotal role. We are grateful for Senator Cardin and Heller's leadership in recognizing the value of addressing this discrepancy for Medicare beneficiaries."

Current regulation allows for the initial assessment to be made by the appropriate skilled rehabilitation professional only when the need for that service establishes home health eligibility. Since occupational therapy is not a qualifying service for home health eligibility, practitioners are prohibited from performing the initial assessment.

What are your thoughts about this legislative development and its potential impact on the OT profession?

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AOTA Announces New York OTA Licensure Law
November 24, 2015 3:02 PM by Dillon Stickle
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) announced in a news release Friday that the state of New York just became the final state to enact a licensure law for occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) following Hawaii, who enacted their licensure law for OTs and OTAs in July 2014. The law will go into effect May 2016, making it official after 40 years that all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and The District of Columbia, will have licensure laws in place for both OTs and OTAs.

Here are some highlights from the release:

"'This is a landmark event for New York state occupational therapists,' said Gloria Lucker, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, BCP, President New York State Occupational Therapy Association. ‘Finally, after 30 years, we have full recognition for occupational therapy assistants in our state. I am so proud of our occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants who worked so hard to make this happen. Having licensure for occupational therapy assistants will assure their full participation in the profession and will enhance practice standards as well as providing greater recognition by the community.'"

"According to the newly-signed S. 1567-A sponsored by Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R), the occupational therapy assistant licensure provisions will go into effect in May 2016. Current law requires occupational therapy assistants to meet certain requirements to become authorized to practice by the Department of Education. The bill repeals that provision and establishes licensure requirements for occupational therapy assistants in statute that are consistent with current requirements. The new law changes the composition of the State Board of Occupational Therapy by requiring that one member be a licensed occupational therapy assistant."

"'We are very proud that New York will become the 50th and final state to enact state licensure for occupational therapy assistants,' said AOTA Chief Executive Officer Frederick P. Somers. ‘State licensure for health professionals is essential in protecting the public from unqualified providers and in assuring the ongoing competence of practitioners. The new law will enhance regulation of the profession by including an occupational therapy assistant on the state's occupation therapy regulatory board and will elevate practice standards for occupational therapy assistants in New York.'"

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AOTF Announces Research Priorities
November 5, 2015 11:21 AM by Brian Ferrie

The American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF), Bethesda, Md., issued a press release in late October announcing research priorities to work toward its vision of a vibrant science that builds knowledge to support effective, evidence-based occupational therapy.

According to the release, future AOTF research initiatives will address:

Health behaviors to prevent and manage chronic conditions;

Functional cognition;

Safety and injury prevention in home, clinical and community settings;

Technology and environmental supports in home and community;

Development and transitions for individuals and families;

Emotional and physiological influences;

Family and caregiver needs; and

Healthcare experience: access, care coordination, utilization.

These research priorities emerged from a year-long process led by Dr. Julie Bass, AOTF director of research. Activities included a comprehensive review of the strategic plans of federal agencies and major foundations, deliberations by the AOTF Scientific Advisory Council, and input from AOTF's key stakeholder groups.

"Occupational therapy's unique contribution to science is to understand the mechanisms that support occupational performance and participation," stated Dr. Carolyn Baum, chair of the AOTF Scientific Advisory Council. "The protective and preventive role of occupations comes to the forefront as society seeks to improve health and the everyday lives of individuals, families and communities. The Foundation will direct its resources to prepare scientists and fund work that will make occupational therapy's contribution to occupational performance and participation science explicit."

What are your thoughts about these research priorities and the impact they could make on the occupational therapy profession?

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Baby Boomers and Joint Pain
October 16, 2015 3:36 PM by Dillon Stickle

This blog was written by Debra Karplus, author for the blog "When OTs Wear White Shoes." 

In the 1960s and ‘70s, a good number of baby boomers, post-war people born between the years 1946 and 1964, were rolling, lighting up, and passing around marijuana joints. (Just for the record, that activity was never part of my repertoire!) Now, forty or so years later, those same people are concerned about a different sort of joint, namely, their knees and hip joints. 

Many of my baby boomer peers are already on a new knee (or set of knees) or a new hip. I still have most of my original body parts, thankfully. Though, I certainly notice that my musculoskeletal system has been more vulnerable to aches and pains after performing simple daily tasks. Joint replacement is a surgery that's becoming more and more popular among people in their fifties and even in their forties. In the past, mostly people in their seventies and sometimes eighties were first-timers in the joint replacement arena.

Our skeletal system is simply not designed to last forever, and since people are living longer, bones wear away; spaces between bones, particularly in the spinal column, scrunch together and cause pain and immobility; fluids dry out and our bony framework changes shape, elasticity, and function. Boomers who have taken good care of themselves especially with a healthy diet and appropriate exercise are not immune to the deterioration of our musculoskeletal system.

But those who have exercised in a way that might have been too tough on the body, such as running on hard pavement, might actually be aggravating their bones and joints. There is much controversy out there regarding running as a sport regarding health and safety to our knees.

What about obesity? The Center for Disease Control ( in a June, 2015 report states that 35.1% of the population over age 20 can be labeled as obese. Obesity is a factor in numerous diseases, such as heart attack and stroke. Simply carrying all the extra weight around puts way too much stress on our bodies' systems, including our knee and hip joints. Put too much cargo in your vehicle's trunk and the car rides low; put too many heavy items in a box and the box will ultimately fall apart. The physics of our bodies' joints is really no different.

If you are working as an occupational therapy practitioner in a rehabilitation facility, it is likely that many of your patients are receiving your services because they have had hip or knee replacement surgery. It used to be that these people were geriatric patients, and retired from their jobs. But these days, you are likely to have younger patients who have jobs and need to be successful with their therapy in order to get back on the job. Some of these people may even still have children at home.

I would enjoy hearing from OT practitioners about their experiences working with some of these younger joint replacement patients. Specifically, how did your treatment plans differ from those with your geriatric clients?

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How Disability-friendly is Your Town?
October 1, 2015 5:07 PM by Jon Bassett

October is Disability Awareness Month. The personal finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2015's Best and Worst Cities for Americans with Disabilities, and recently released the results.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly five million people with disabilities were employed in 2014. However, the unemployment rate for those with a disability continues to be almost double the rate for persons without one, WalletHub states.

WalletHub compared the 150 most populated cities in America across 21 key metrics, ranging from the number of physicians per capita, to the rate of employed people with disabilities, to park accessibility.

The best and worst cities are listed below.

 Best Cities for People with Disabilities

      1          Overland Park, KS

      2          Scottsdale, AZ

      3          Peoria, AZ

      4          Tampa, FL

      5          St. Petersburg, FL

      6          Huntington Beach, CA

      7          Oklahoma City, OK

      8          Gilbert, AZ

      9          Honolulu, HI

      10        Santa Clarita, CA


Worst Cities for People with Disabilities

141            Rochester, NY

142            Birmingham, AL

143            Newark, NJ

144            Winston-Salem, NC

145            Stockton, CA

146            Worcester, MA

147            Moreno Valley, CA

148            San Bernardino, CA

149            Jersey City, NJ

150            Providence, RI

The full results and methodology can be viewed here.

Did your town make either list? How handicap-accessible do you feel your community is? What are the most common barriers you hear from patients? Leave a comment below.

OT Practitioners Are Headed to Capitol Hill
September 18, 2015 5:29 PM by Brian Ferrie

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) just issued a press release this week declaring that hundreds of OT clinicians, educators, and students from across the United States will meet with elected officials Sept. 28 on Capitol Hill. They intend to discuss key legislative issues affecting the profession and the current state of healthcare such as mental health, home health, and rehabilitation research. Legislation supporting access to occupational therapy could reduce overall healthcare costs by facilitating independence among patients.

Organized by the AOTA, "Hill Day" is an opportunity for healthcare professionals to bring their concerns straight to their state's lawmakers, offer solutions, ask questions, and listen to guest speakers on the topics that affect their work. Last year, more than 550 occupational therapy practitioners and students from across the country visited Capitol Hill to make their voices heard. To date, more than 570 have registered for the 2015 event.

"Occupational therapy is a critical component to healthcare," said Heather Parsons, AOTA's director of legislative advocacy. "Whether the client's goal is to bathe independently after a stroke or as complicated as returning to work after an accident, occupational therapists work to make that goal a reality. Hill Day attendees will focus on creating new policies to provide quality healthcare that should include occupational therapy services. We are excited to have hundreds of occupational therapy practitioners, educators, and students come to Capitol Hill to talk to lawmakers about occupational therapy."

Here are all the Hill Day details:

Where: The Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium and Atrium, connected to the Capitol Building at First and East Capitol St., Washington, D.C.

When: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 28, 2015 (There will be two briefing sessions: 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 10 to 11 a.m., followed by Congressional office visits between 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.).

Get Connected: For Hill Day updates, search #OTHillDay, follow @AOTAEvents on Twitter, or visit AOTA's Hill Day website.

To Learn More: E-mail or go to the AOTA homepage.

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OTs Teaching PTs
September 4, 2015 10:40 AM by Dillon Stickle
While there are many important differences between the physical and occupational therapy fields, it is more often than not found that each profession can learn a lot from the other.

Back in July I went to visit Phoebe Ministries, a non-profit, multi-facility organization specializing in health care, housing, and support services for seniors located in Allentown, Pa., to learn about their newest implemented therapy program, NET (Neurocognitive Engagement Therapy), which focuses on helping individuals with cognitive impairment regain their function and return to their home environment using traditional as well as nontraditional therapy methods.

Although this program seems to be more OT driven, it actually requires an interdisciplinary team, including physical therapists. In fact, the program's founder is a PT. Jennifer Howanitz, MPT and Director of Rehab Services at Phoebe Allentown, said that when she got to Phoebe with a PT background, and saw there was no unit focused solely on dementia care, she wanted to make that happen and give therapists that kind of training that they hadn't had before.

Howanitz told ADVANCE that the physical therapists at Phoebe are learning how to get more in touch with their creative side, instead of always going by the books and doing things only the way they were taught in school. "It has been more of a challenge for PT's to not be so black and white," said Howanitz. "OT's tend to be more creative naturally," she added.

Howanitz said that because of the program's overwhelming success with both therapists and patients, physical therapists are learning that they can be more creative with their patients. "The PT's are doing well because the program works. They are seeing these approaches work and it is sparking their creativity. Success breeds confidence and creativity."

OTs, how do you feel about PTs taking on more creative roles? Have you ever had an experience working with a PT and helping them spark more creative thinking? Have you learned something from a PT that you never did as an OT?

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OTs Can Promote 'Lifestyle Redesign'
August 19, 2015 11:56 AM by Jon Bassett

Editor's Note: This blog was guest-written by Maher Kharma, MHS, OTR/L, CEAS, occupational therapist at Doctors Community Hospital, Lanham, MD

While occupational therapists wear various hats at different times to maximize client independence, they also function well, and are equipped to do so, as the ones who step in to renovate lifestyles.

Recently, a 65-year-old stroke survivor came to our clinic displaying the typical flexor tone in the affected upper and lower extremities, interfering with his mobility and ADLs. The client presented two years post-stroke, and appeared to have more needs than your typical stroke case.

As trust built up between us, with clinical reasoning at the heart of the operations, this client shared that he was living in a house with his daughter and her children, whom he rarely sees or interacts with, consequently receiving no support.

Over the course of therapy, it became clearer that lacking such support was negatively impacting his ability to progress in therapy. The client repeatedly expressed concerns regarding his lack of support, and it eventually became a regular part of the discussion during the session, placing the person-environment-occupation model at the center of his care, reflecting how the environment constitutes a barrier. 

In terms of functional mobility, the client was non-ambulatory and used a manual wheelchair, and his limited progress in physical therapy reflected that he would not progress to the point of becoming ambulatory. In exploring his occupational profile, it became more evident that he used to have an outgoing personality, and enjoyed the outdoors.

As OT intervention started, a home exercise program was developed to address his musculoskeletal limitations, and ADL deficits were routinely addressed. Within a few sessions, the client became excited about his improved independence in ADLs. With limited progress in his motor function, he was referred to a physiatrist and received Botox injections that relaxed his affected upper extremity to some extent.

As to the client's environment, he was connected with a social worker who provided him resources for acquiring his own housing through HUD. He was given a list of additional community resources to enroll in adult day care in order to rejuvenate his occupational roles, as well as a list of home health agencies to hire a home health aide, literature regarding subscribing to lifeline services, and resources for getting his groceries delivered.

Finally, the client was evaluated and fitted with a motorized wheelchair to enable him to access the community more independently.

The outcome of this case turned out to be remarkably satisfactory for the client and the treating team. When lifestyle redesign is needed, occupational therapy can assume this role.

Maher Kharma has been an occupational therapist in various settings for over 20 years. He has lectured on stroke rehabilitation, organized a full-day multidisciplinary stroke conference in 2012, founded a stroke support group, and is currently developing an upper-extremity stroke protocol. 

AOTA Issues Backpack Safety Tips
August 5, 2015 3:37 PM by Brian Ferrie

With the start of school approaching, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), Bethesda, Md., issued a press release on July 30 stating, in part:

"Heavy loads carried by more than 79 million students across the U.S. can cause low-back pain that often lasts through adulthood. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010 nearly 28,000 strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures from backpacks were treated in hospital emergency rooms, physicians' offices, and clinics.

‘A child wearing a backpack incorrectly or that is too heavy can be contributing risk factors for discomfort, fatigue, muscle soreness, and musculoskeletal pain especially in the lower back,' says Karen Jacobs, EdD, OTR/L, CPE, clinical professor of occupational therapy at Boston University, and an expert on school ergonomics and healthy growth and development of school-age children."

In light of these risks, the AOTA urges parents and caregivers to consider a variety of factors when selecting a backpack, including size, shoulder strap padding, hip belt options, and comfortable fit. Finally, the organization recommends limiting the supplies in a child's backpack so that it weighs no more than 10% of his body weight.

AOTA's National School Backpack Awareness Day will be celebrated on Sept. 16 with backpack weigh-ins and check-ups, as well as activities and special events. Do you think enough attention is paid to backpack safety for kids? What can occupational therapy professionals do to help spread awareness?

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The Neurocognitive Engagement Therapy (NET) Program
July 24, 2015 12:03 PM by Dillon Stickle
I recently took a trip to Allentown, Pa. to visit Phoebe Ministries, a non-profit, multi-facility organization specializing in health care, housing, and support services for seniors, and learn about a breakthrough program that will pave a more sufficient path for patients with Dementia and other cognitive impairments.

The Neurocognitive Engagement Therapy (NET) program is for patients with cognitive impairments who are usually not accepted into assisted living homes because of their behavior issues that nurses often find too challenging. NET uses traditional as well as non-traditional techniques and approaches when working with patients; the goal is engagement, so the staff does whatever they can to find something their patient loves, and turn it into a beneficial activity or exercise.

"I knew Phoebe was known for its rehab," said Jeanne Mathias, whose husband, Dave, was a patient at Phoebe. "I worked to get my husband in there because other places would not take him because of his dementia. They said it was too difficult."

Mathias told ADVANCE that she had confidence in them because any time she came to them with a concern, they listened to her. "It wasn't like they just did what they wanted. They addressed my concerns and made an effort to incorporate them into their rehab approach."

Another one of their goals at Phoebe is to establish more relationships with the family of the patients and to work together with them. "It gave me a better peace of mind to know that they were working along with me in order to accomplish a goal for him and myself."

The NET program is actually backed by studies, all with good results. In my short time visiting the facility, I met two patients who were getting ready to soon be released, when just a short time ago they had come in with high levels of impairment and behavioral issues.

You can learn more about Phoebe Ministries, the NET program, and the therapists behind it in our cover story of Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners, out August 10!

OTs, do you have experience working with patients with Dementia or other cognitive impairments? Do you think there is enough education out there for therapists to be confident in their ability to handle that kind of care? Let us know in the comments section.

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Breakthrough for OTs to Provide Behavioral Health Services
July 1, 2015 1:12 PM by Brian Ferrie

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), Bethesda, Md., recently issued a press release announcing a major achievement for the profession -- inclusion of occupational therapy in newly established criteria for mental health services.

On May 20, the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA) included licensed occupational therapists in the list of staff to be considered by newly created certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs). The criterion is used by states to certify CCBHCs, established as part of a two-year demonstration program under Sect. 223 of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act.

"This is a huge opportunity for the profession to return to our mental health roots and provide needed services to those who can most benefit from occupational therapy," said AOTA President Virginia Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA. "Because the new CCBHCs will be required to provide integrated care, this is a chance for us to show how our broad understanding of both physical health and behavioral health helps bridge these different worlds of service provision."

The press release continued that the purpose of this demonstration program is to "dramatically improve the quality and availability of community behavioral health services by providing access to well-funded, integrated, coordinated, client-centered mental health and substance use services at CCBHCs. The announced CCBHC criteria are part of a larger Request for Applications for Planning Grants to states. These planning grants will allow states to develop their proposals to participate in the two-year CCBHC demonstration program."

Though an unlimited number of states can receive planning grants, only eight will ultimately be selected to participate in the demonstration program and receive increased federal funding for behavioral health services. All CCBHCs participating in the program must meet criteria outlined by SAMHSA. The newly established criteria for mental health services can be found here.

What do you think about this development and how it will impact the occupational therapy profession?

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An Eye-Opening Vision Rehab Program
June 12, 2015 1:03 PM by Dillon Stickle
A couple weeks back, I visited the Occupational Therapy department at MossRehab to talk to Steve Whittaker, an OT who also is certified in low vision rehabilitation, and learn about what they're doing in the field for an article coming out in this month's issue.

While learning about the rehab program, I got to speak with one of Steve's patients, Deborah, and learn about her journey with low vision since she was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease when she was in adolescence. Deborah, along with her adorable and even more loyal guide dog, Gypsy, came in for a session with Steve.

"Individuals who are fully sighted take so much for granted," she told me. "Having low vision can really take a toll, but with the help of vision rehab and Steve, I am learning to regain my independence." And it wasn't just the physical improvement that meant the most to her. "It's a mood lifter and a confidence builder. I can dress myself, cook for myself - I really feel like I am in control of my own life."

Steve and MossRehab are one of a kind in the area because the vision rehabilitation program is part of the patient's overall therapy program. It saves them time, and it saves them money since it would be covered by most insurance companies. "I think vision rehab changes lives. It's all about putting that person in a better place. That's the most rewarding part."

Do you think OTs should take on the role of vision rehab in their therapy program? Have you integrated vision therapy into your practice?

You can learn more about Deborah, Steve and the vision rehab program at MossRehab in the June issue of Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners!

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AOTA Looks Ahead
April 30, 2015 3:23 PM by Jon Bassett

NASHVILLE -- During her Presidential Address at the American Occupational Therapy Association's 95th Annual Conference & Expo, held April 16-18 in Nashville, AOTA President Virginia "Ginny" Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA, took stock of the current state of the profession and set a course for the decades ahead.

Stoffel is associate professor in the department of occupational science and technology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The association's 29th president, she is currently in her second year of a three-year term.

The profession's numbers are growing rapidly, reported Stoffel. While a recent AOTA count placed the number of practicing OTs, OTAs and students at 140,000, more recent estimates place the count closer to 185,000. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2022, there will be a need for 29% more OTs and 43% more OTAs.

"We need to set 100,000 as our next membership target," said Stoffel in relation to the rising ranks of OT practitioners. "Can you imagine how much more we could accomplish." Stoffel acknowledged the commitment of OT professionals worldwide, having made 36 trips so far as president.

"Engagement strategies may well be one of our greatest strengths as a profession," said Stoffel.

And as 2017 approaches -- the 100-year anniversary of the profession -- AOTA must look beyond that milestone and set new objectives, said Stoffel. The association has retained a public relations and branding firm to craft a new vision statement, in addition to member feedback in the form of focus groups, and electronic surveys. The new vision will be unveiled at next year's conference in Chicago.

"It's time to update our vision for the profession, to look carefully and boldly toward the future," announced Stoffel. "I hope that our future holds a clear, lit path to empowerment as a core attitude of all occupational therapy practitioners."

Debating the Entry-level OTD
April 20, 2015 11:09 AM by Jon Bassett

Members of the AOTA Board of Directors held a roundtable discussion at the AOTA Conference April 18 to hear comments and concerns pertaining to the possible transition to a doctorate of occupational therapy (OTD) as the entry-level degree for clinical practice.

In April 2014, the AOTA Board of Directors adopted the following position statement:

“In response to the changing demands of higher education, the health care environment, and within occupational therapy, it is the position of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Board of Directors that the profession should take action to transition toward a doctoral-level single point of entry for occupational therapists, with a target date of 2025. Support of high quality entry-level doctoral education for occupational therapists will benefit the profession, consumers, and society. The Board encourages a profession-wide dialogue on this critical issue.”

Possible negatives raised by audience members in the open-dialogue session at the AOTA conference included:

-- Faculty preparedness. Are professors in today’s OT programs academically equipped to deliver an across-the-board doctoral-level education to OT students?

-- Salaries keeping up with student loans. Many audience members raised the point that employers are not reimbursing doctoral-level OTs any higher than their non-doctorate peers, leaving incoming students to face even higher student loan debts.

-- The needs of the community. Because so many areas of the country are already under-served by OT professionals, audience members wondered whether these children and adults will pursue more common, less expensive services, such as therapeutic recreation specialists or music therapists.

-- Practice specialization. Students completing their doctorate in an entry-level program might have to choose a practice specialty before being “in the field” to work with many different patients in multiple practice settings. This could land them in less-satisfactory roles.

-- Life experience. A popular sentiment among those who have already pursued a master's or doctorate degree was the value that shared clinical experiences among a varied student population brought to the classroom.

-- Fewer opportunities for professional advancement. The current tiered system allows truly committed professionals to distinguish themselves by earning higher degrees. This will be diminished if every practitioner begins practice on the same terminal-degree level.

While the majority of audience members were against the move to an entry-level OTD, some spoke in favor of the transition, or were in academic programs already in the process of transitioning. Panel members explained that AOTA membership is only one stakeholder in the decision, and while they weigh membership opinion heavily in the debate, other stakeholders include public consumers of OT services, referring professionals, and the U.S. Department of Education.

At the earliest, implementation of the new OTD mandate would take place in 2019, said Neil Harvison, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, chief academic and scientific affairs officer at AOTA.

AOTA Conference Kicks Off Nashville-Style
April 17, 2015 7:51 AM by Jon Bassett

The American Occupational Therapy Association's 95th Annual Conference & Exposition kicked off southern-style Thursday night April 16 with a rollicking mini-concert from Sixwire, a Nashville-based country music band that had the packed ballroom clapping, dancing and forming conga lines in the aisles.

AOTA President "Ginny" Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA, then announced to applause that the Nashville conference is on track to beat all previous attendance records and become the highest-attended conference to date. Significant milestones for the association in recent months include Hawaii becoming the 50th state to achieve licensure for OTs, and "Occupational Therapy" being a category on a recent "Jeopardy" show, demonstrating the progress being made in marketing the profession of occupational therapy to the public.

And while the Senate passed legislation April 15 to repeal Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate formula, an initiative supported by many physician and allied health organizations, a repeal of Medicare's outpatient therapy cap on rehabilitation services fell just two votes short, Stoffel said.

However, she was proud to announce that AOTA members sent 20,000 letters to their representatives and AOTA earned floor time as the Senate debated the issue.

 "We weren't successful this time, but we'll continue to fight for repeal," said Stoffel. 

Keynote Address 

Following Stoffel's remarks, keynote speaker Rosalind Wiseman, well-known expert on bullying and author whose book "Queen Bees and Wannabes" inspired the movie "Mean Girls," explained to her audience that occupational therapists are in a unique position to interrupt the cycle of bullying and exclusion often experienced by -- and originating from -- young people with social challenges.

"For the best of intentions, schools across the country have jumped on the issue of bullying," said Wiseman, but often with less-than-ideal results. Well-meaning teachers and administrators often speak in meaningless sound bytes such as "be kind" and "how would you feel if it was you," or try to force the bully and the victim to spend time together to become friends -- none of which get at the complex root causes of social dynamics, said Wiseman.

Also, we often view bullying in extremes, with one person "bad" all the time, and one person completely without fault, she added. Finally, not everything is bullying -- being excluded from an Instagram photo of friends at a movie isn't bullying. True bullying, said Wiseman, is stripping someone of their right to be treated with dignity, and attacking someone based on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or other differences.

"Entertaining people by humiliating others is unacceptable," Wiseman said.

Distinct Value Statement

In other conference news, on Thursday afternoon April 16, presenters of "AOTA Centennial Vision in Action" discussed the association's "OT Distinct Value Statement," a component of the AOTA's Centennial Vision.

An ad hoc committee of OTs from a variety of backgrounds convened to develop a consensus statement outlining the value that occupational therapists bring to patient's lives.

In 2014, AOTA's board of directors realized that the value statement was closely related to the association's Centennial Vision -- a guiding statement setting the goals of the profession for its centennial anniversary in 2017 -- and adopted it as a component of the vision.

The value statement is as follows: 

"Occupational therapy's distinct value is to improve health and quality of life through facilitating participation and engagement in occupations, the meaningful, necessary and familiar activities of everyday life. Occupational therapy is client-centered, achieves positive outcomes and is cost-effective."

Five members of the value statement committee provided practical examples of the values occupational therapy brings to patients in their individual practice settings -- acute care, pediatrics, rehabilitation, long-term care and school settings.

The association plans to promote the value statement through its marketing channels, including a 3-minute video currently live on YouTube. 

"You are going to be seeing a lot of this statement in the coming months," said committee member and AOTA Vice President Amy Lamb, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA. 





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