Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Career Transitions in Occupational Therapy
Author Affiliations
  • Quinnipiac University
  • Quinnipiac University
Article Information
Basic Research
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Career Transitions in Occupational Therapy
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505154.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505154.

Date Presented 4/8/2016

A qualitative, phenomenological approach was used to explore the experiences of six occupational therapists who made career transitions. Results showed the necessity of support systems, on-the-job training, and education to make a smooth transition as well as the need for professional guidelines.

Primary Author and Speaker: Ashley Sarrat

Additional Author and Speaker: Betsey Smith

PURPOSE: The purpose of the study was to explore how occupational therapists have executed transitions to different practice areas by posing the question “What factors contributed to or inhibited occupational therapists career transitions to different practice areas?”
BACKGROUND: The scope of occupational therapy offers opportunities for occupational therapists (OTs) to make career transitions between different practice settings. However, there are no guidelines in place to assist with the transition process among practice settings for practitioners with experience in the field.
DESIGN: A qualitative, phenomenological approach guided by grounded theory was used to explore the experiences of OTs who have experienced career transitions.
PARTICIPANTS: Six OTs who performed career transitions from one practice area after ≥3 yr of experience participated in the study.
METHOD: Open-ended and semistructured interviews were conducted by phone.
ANALYSIS: Interviews were transcribed and data analyzed using grounded theory procedures, beginning with open coding and progressing to axial coding for any recurring themes using a constant comparative method of analysis. Triangulation was achieved using individual interviews, peer debriefing, field notes, and findings from literature reviews.
RESULTS: Consistent with the literature, participants made career transitions because of decreased job security, increased salary, or to challenge self. While making the change between practice areas, many of the participants experienced a sense of anxiety, nervousness, shyness, being overwhelmed, and a need for stability.
Continuing education courses, attending conferences, and independent learning were helpful resources that were utilized before and during their transition process. They relied on support from colleagues, their current boss, supervisor, former professors, family, and friends outside of the profession.
While interviewing for new jobs, the OTs reported being honest and open about their lack of experience with potential employers. The most beneficial type of training received during their transitions was on-the-job training that included shadowing, observation of other therapists, general orientation, and a review of required documentation guidelines.
Although OTs have many transferrable skills such as clinical reasoning and interpersonal skills that can be applied to a new practice area, the results of this study suggest other transferrable skills were utilized, including concrete clinical skills (transfers, dressing techniques, cooking groups), therapeutic use of self, flexibility, problem solving, enthusiasm, and kindness. Although some participants talked about mentor relationships, they identified the process as informal with assigned mentors who had more experience in the practice area.
DISCUSSION: Many themes were identified in this study that support the benefits of certain training techniques, mentoring, and transferrable skills required for a career transition. This study revealed that career transition experience of OTs was a unique experience for each individual. Career transitions were influenced by job loss, instability, changing dynamics of the facility, and personal reasons. The transition process was associated with various feelings. The challenges of making a career transition were made less daunting by support from colleagues and education about training techniques utilized in the new practice area.
IMPACT STATEMENT: This research has contributed to the knowledge regarding the reasons for career transitions and inhibiting and contributing factors that assist in the process of career transitions of OTs.