Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
How to Promote Occupational Therapy Student Professional Engagement
Author Affiliations
  • Howard University
  • Howard University
  • Howard University
Article Information
Education of OTs and OTAs / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
How to Promote Occupational Therapy Student Professional Engagement
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510222.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510222.

Date Presented 4/8/2016

Session is designed to provide educators with tools to embed professional engagement activities in their curricula. These tools were developed, trialed, and analyzed for efficacy across 2 yr of pilot studies at an entry-level MSOT program.

Primary Author and Speaker: Jessica Alden

Additional Author and Speaker: Lynda Hill, Joylynne Wills

BACKGROUND: In the current ever-changing health care climate, it is essential that practitioners are engaged politically and professionally as advocates in their profession. Nursing and pharmacy professions have completed several research studies on how to engage students, and the nursing profession has effectively harnessed nurses to bring on political change. There is a need to research how to most effectively engage occupational therapy students in professional advocacy. Engaging occupational therapists is essential for protecting and progressing the field of occupational therapy.
DESIGN: These pilot projects were conducted with 1st-yr occupational therapy graduate students over 2 yr with two different cohorts of students, one group of 28 and another of 32. Students were invited to participate in the study, but it was voluntary and did not affect their course grade. A pre–post survey design was used to collect data; the survey had Likert-designed questions as well as open-ended questions. Educational modules were embedded with core curriculum courses over one semester and conducted between administration of the first survey and the final survey. The modules were developed using templates from other health care professions and by tailoring content to occupational therapy.
METHOD: The data were collected anonymously through an online interactive survey.
ANALYSIS: Descriptive statistics and t tests were applied to data to compare the pretest and posttest data. An outside statistician was consulted to review analysis.
RESULTS: Embedding professional advocacy modules in the occupational therapy curriculum is effective in changing students’ self-reported interest in professional engagement and in their knowledge of professional engagement matters such as how to contact their congressperson or state association. Most students entered the graduate program with little knowledge and limited interest in professional engagement. Hands-on activities were most effective in engaging students.
DISCUSSION: The class modules took limited time to create and embed in the curriculum. Our close proximity to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) headquarters and to Capital Hill, as well as the proximity of the state occupational therapy (OT) association gave our students opportunities that other students across the nation may not have. It would be worthwhile to conduct this study with other universities nationally. The fact that the students had so little knowledge of professional issues on entering OT graduate school is likely to contribute to the large change seen at pre- and postsurvey. Faculty found this feasible to implement in the curriculum.
IMPACT STATEMENT: The objective of this module is to share what we as educators and advocates have learned about how to most effectively engage and educate OT graduate students on matters of professional engagement. This project has positively affected our university, but there is opportunity for it to affect universities nationally, and we would like to equip other educators with the resources and strategies we have developed, trialed, and assessed to support faculty in engaging their students professionally.
In the long term, it is hoped that this will create a more professionally engaged occupational therapy body, which could have a profound impact on the profession. In getting more students (most of whom will go on to practice as clinicians) to become involved in professional engagement there is potential for more clinicians to join AOTA or their state association, send a letter to their congressional representative, or run for the representative assemblyperson for their state. Ideally, this project may lead to greater empowerment of occupational therapists.