Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Student to Therapist: Recommendations to Maximize the Transition Experience
Author Affiliations
  • West Virginia University
  • Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Article Information
Complementary/Alternative Approaches / Education of OTs and OTAs / Professional Issues / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Student to Therapist: Recommendations to Maximize the Transition Experience
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510227.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011510227.

Date Presented 4/8/2016

The transition from new grad to practicing occupational therapist (OT) as recalled by a national sample of OTs was examined. Respondents indicated the transition was positive, especially when responsibilities were well defined. Negative factors included low self-confidence. Major recommendations are presented.

Primary Author and Speaker: Randy P. McCombie

Additional Author and Speaker: Meredith McElroy

This study was designed to assess variables supporting a positive transition from student to practicing therapist over the 1st yr of employment; develop a broad model for predicting a successful transition; and generate recommendations to support a productive and positive transition experience.
Upon graduation, new occupational therapists (OTs) transition from the familiarity of academic life and sheltered experience of fieldwork to employment, often with documented stressors and strains. Numerous factors affecting the transition process have been identified, including quality of clinical skill, communication skills, professional confidence, presence of a mentor, and initial job satisfaction. Limited research has evaluated degree of preparedness for entrance into professional employment. For example, research by Gray et al. found that new-grad OTs felt somewhat prepared for practice, though few felt well prepared. This study, building on previous pilot work, examined the transition experience of a national sample of OTs reflecting on their initial year of practice
This was a descriptive study utilizing a postal mail survey sent to a national sample of OTs. Participants included 500 OTs randomly selected from the American Occupational Therapy Association membership.
A survey packet was postal mailed to each participant. The survey instrument was a multipage questionnaire including open- and closed-ended questions. Closed-ended questions included yes–no and 5-point Likert-style questions examining components directly related to the transition process.
Quantitative data were entered into a statistical software package (for descriptive and inferential analyses. Qualitative data from open-ended questions was content analyzed for lists and themes
Of the 500 surveys mailed, 202 were returned. Median graduation year was 1998, ranging from 1967 to 2014. Respondents indicated the transition was smooth, the clinical fit good, and job satisfaction positive. Low self-confidence was reported to be negatively affecting the process. Having a mentor was related to receiving adequate feedback, high job satisfaction, and good clinical fit but did not enter into a predictive model of good transition, as did other variables, such as having well-defined roles and responsibilities, a realistic caseload, and good clinical skills. Being required to supervise an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) tended to undermine the transition experience. Examples of recommendations include (1) for the employer, provide a realistic and manageable caseload, provide a senior mentor, refrain from having new grads supervise OTAs, and provide reviews of basic procedures; (2) for the academic program, emphasize documentation and follow-up clinical evaluation in class or lab exercises, provide more hands-on experiences, and provide ongoing support and networking; and (3) for the new graduate, fully investigate the prospective place of employment and engage in discussion with employers regarding work and clinical caseload, availability of a mentor, and expectations regarding supervision of OTA and recognize that starting salary is neither the sole nor the primary determinant of job satisfaction.
Overall, results emphasize the need to recognize that although the transition from student to therapist was generally positive and without incident, it was challenging for many, fraught with complications and a potential for a lasting negative impact. To support the new therapist, recommendations were generated on the basis of the experiences of these participants.
The present study gives needed address to the transition process for new graduate OTs, identifying factors positively affecting the process. These factors generated recommendations to effectively promote a successful professional experience for new therapists.