Lea Cheyney Brandt; From Collaboration to Cause: Breaking Rural Poverty Cycles Through Educational Partnerships. Am J Occup Ther 2014;68(Supplement_2):S45–S50. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2014.685S01
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
The Missouri Health Professions Consortium (MHPC) Occupational Therapy Assistant Program is an innovative educational model that was specifically designed to address needs unique to rural communities. The model takes into account not only the distinctiveness of rural practice environments but also the educational barriers unique to rural student populations. The MHPC Occupational Therapy Assistant Program addresses the needs of these communities by providing educational opportunities to rural, place‐bound students. The program has produced viable employment options, resulting in improved access to occupational therapy services as well as positive economic outcomes for graduates who reside in rural communities.
can be summarized into three broad categories: (1) financial barriers, (2) family and community attributes or contexts, and (3) physical distance from campuses . . . which interact [to] create a complex and significant barrier to accessing higher education for all rural students. (Sewell, 2006, p. 24)
Foundation for professional success
Degree completion through flexible program design
“I have a career that I enjoy.”
“I love what I do, I do not work a day in my life.”
“It has given me the ability to have a fulfilling career I can be proud of.”
“Thanks to this program I have had the opportunity to more than double my income, allowing my husband and I to work toward paying off his student loans and medical bills, in addition to allowing us to move into a larger home and begin building our family.”
“I am financially stable now that I am a COTA, and that is a dream come true.”
“I am on track to be a financially secure single parent.”
“I am now able to practice as a COTA, and I have many options for employment and salary opportunities. Without pursuing this degree, I probably would have been stuck making minimum wage and hating my career for the rest of my life.”
“The program has impacted my life by supplying my family with income security and myself with a stable, rewarding career.”
“It has greatly defined what working hard for something you want means to me. It has also helped me to provide a better life for my family.”
“Gave me a great opportunity to get a degree in a short amount of time.”
“The MHPC OTA Program has impacted my life by allowing me to complete a highly competitive program in a short period of time, which better accommodated my family.”
“The program also built my confidence, knowledge and skill sets that I need in order to be successful in my new career and life.”
“Overall, the program has positively prepared me for an entry-level position as an OTA. For me, it is life altering! The program has also allowed me to meet other individuals that have the same interests as I do and to build strong rapport with fellow colleagues.”
“The MHPC OTA Program has helped me find an occupation I have a passion for and assisted me in deciding upon my educational goals (Master in Occupational Therapy).”
“Has given me the tools necessary to further my career in occupational therapy, as I am applying to a MSOT program.”
Not only could the current programs expand to meet developing needs in other rural communities, similar programs could be implemented in multiple educational institutions to address access to health care services and providers for underserved populations.
The MHPC model not only addresses access to associate-level degree programs but can be adapted to provide career laddering for students at any level of the academic continuum. “By trying new recruiting and retention approaches and challenging their own assumptions about how students and families choose and experience college, institutions can shift their organizational cultures to be more responsive to a wider array of students” (Nunez, 2013, p. B46).
Educational models such as the MHPC OTA Program have the unique opportunity to respond to the unmet needs of place-bound students while contributing to the economic growth of rural communities by expanding access to health care services.
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