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Research Article  |   September 1989
Variables Affecting Specialty Choice in Occupational Therapy
Author Affiliations
  • Peggy Prince Wittman, MS, OTR/L, is Chair of the Occupational Therapy Department, 306 Belk Building, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina 27858
  • Susan Swinehart, MS, OTR, is Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Department at Indiana University, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Rosemary Cahill, MS, OTR, is Associate Professor in the Occupational Therapy Department at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Illinois
  • Gordon St. Michel, MPH, OTR, is Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Department at Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky
Article Information
Education of OTs and OTAs / Mental Health / Features
Research Article   |   September 1989
Variables Affecting Specialty Choice in Occupational Therapy
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September 1989, Vol. 43, 602-606. doi:10.5014/ajot.43.9.602
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, September 1989, Vol. 43, 602-606. doi:10.5014/ajot.43.9.602
Abstract

Over the past 15 years, the number of occupational therapists entering the practice area of mental health has greatly declined. To determine the possible reasons for this decline, a random sample of 450 occupational therapy students who graduated in 1986 was surveyed to identify those factors that influence practice choice. Participants were asked to indicate their practice preferences at five points in time: before admission to the academic program, after completion of the academic program, after completion of Level I fieldwork, after completion of Level II fieldwork, and at first employment. The results from 212 questionnaires (a 47% response rate) indicated that the distribution of practice choices remained relatively consistent over time. After completion of the academic program, the choice of mental health practice was seen as negative. Specific negative influences were topic content, teaching methods, and teacher effectiveness. Level I fieldwork was perceived as a negative experience in all five practice areas, but was perceived most negatively in mental health. Level II fieldwork most influenced practice preferences. Specific positive factors were the student supervisor and the patient caseload.