Ted Brown, Jeffrey L. Crabtree, Keli Mu, Joe Wells; The Next Paradigm Shift in Occupational Therapy Education: The Move to the Entry-Level Clinical Doctorate. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(Supplement_2):6912360020. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.016527
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
The occupational therapy profession in the United States is considering another shift in the level of entry-to-practice education. Currently, all accredited U.S. occupational therapy education programs offer graduate-entry master’s degrees or clinical doctorates. In 2014, the American Occupational Therapy Association Board of Directors published a position statement supporting the idea of moving all entry-level occupational therapy education programs to the clinical doctorate level by 2025. This article provides an overview of the proposed reasons for doing so and the potential impact of this move on future students, education providers, clients and families, employers, and third-party payers and funding bodies along with the implications for the occupational therapy profession internationally. An open, informed, transparent, multiperspective, comprehensive debate about this education paradigm shift is recommended. In August 2015 the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education decided that the entry-level qualification will remain at both the master’s and the doctoral degree; it is anticipated, however, that the move toward the entry-level clinical doctorate will continue.
The existence of two entry-level degrees (currently a master’s degree and clinical doctorate) is confusing to external audiences and the profession itself.
There is a need for occupational therapists who are “able to rigorously implement evidence-based practice, [understand] care delivery models, and [are] prepared to meet the future occupational needs of society” (p. 18).
New occupational therapy graduates need to exhibit professional autonomy so they can take on leadership positions within the health care system.
The “increased focus on primary care, interprofessional care teams, and specialization in practice has required increased content in the entry-level academic programs” (p. 18).
There has been a trend within other health care professions toward making the clinical doctorate their standard entry-level education to practice, and occupational therapy needs to remain competitive.
(1) limited outcomes differentiate master’s and doctorally prepared graduates; (2) the academic infrastructure of many institutions is not sufficient to meet the occupational therapy doctorate standards, especially with respect to faculty resources and institutional support; (3) the readiness and capability of institutions to deliver quality fieldwork and experiential components of the program is constrained; and (4) retaining two entry levels allows for flexibility of the profession to assess and address the changing health care needs of individuals and populations. (para. 1)
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