Congratulations on taking the first step toward a career as an occupational therapy assistant. As you begin looking into OTA programs, you may begin to ask yourself a common question that many prospective OTA students wonder “How can I succeed in OTA school?” While this is a great question to ask, there’s really no easy answer. That’s because everyone is different – one person’s strength may be another person’s weakness.
For students in St. Catherine University’s online OTA program, pursuing an online-based education can be rigorous and requires a lot of organization and effort, but it is all for the sake of beginning a rewarding career. Between the tough parts, there is also the discovery of what you’re really capable of achieving. Most importantly, it’s where you can start transforming into a healthcare leader who touches the lives of others in need.
St. Kate’s online OTA program can help you achieve this success. Below we outline some of the top stressors you’ll come across in OTA schools like ours and how we support you throughout your OTA journey.
1. Becoming familiar with online coursework.
From learning about the history of OT and basic human needs to mastering the process of setting goals and documenting patient evaluations, online OTA programs cover a vast amount of information in a condensed time period so it’s important that you remain organized and on track. This can make some students feel apprehensive, especially those who may be new to online learning or for those who have been out of school for some time.
Resources to help you succeed: Our e-Learning platform.
Thanks to St. Kate’s blended learning model, comprised of 80% online and 20% on-site curriculum, you will have the flexibility to complete coursework at a time that adheres to your schedule, while meeting deadlines given by instructors. Yes, it’s fast-paced, but Canvas, the e-learning platform you’ll use throughout your online OTA education, has interactive presentations and activities to guide you toward success.
For example, the online portion of the OTA program lets you listen to lectures and review course material as many times as needed until you fully grasp the subject matter. If you need further guidance, there are discussion forums that can help you communicate with instructors and cohort classmates.
“If you still feel perplexed, the e-Learning platform offers video chat,” says Kelly, a current student in St. Kate’s online OTA program. “Communicating with instructors through this feature has helped me a lot,” she says.
2. Traveling for skills labs and fieldwork.
Learning specialized OTA concepts online is just one part of your education. The next element will require you to apply the skills you’ve learned online in a real-world setting. This is done through a number of hands-on skills labs and fieldwork hours.
Some OTA programs only offer skills labs and fieldwork locations to students who live within a close radius. This limits students, especially those with families, from earning their associates degree in occupational therapy. However, this is not the case at St. Kate’s University. At St. Kate’s, the OTA program accommodates to students across the country through distance learning.
Resources to help you succeed: Distance learning.
St. Kate’s makes it convenient for you to attend all labs and fieldwork hours in a logistically efficient and organized way, regardless of where you may live. Since the program is 80% online, it gives you the opportunity to travel to the 12 skills lab sites and level I fieldwork facilities (that are close in proximity) once a month, in the same weekend, instead of relocating.
“St. Kate’s did a great job of understanding my needs and desires so I applied the next day ready for my next adventure,” says Alex, a recent St. Kate’s online OTA graduate.
3. Making time for it all.
From completing online coursework to participating in skills labs and fieldwork, pursuing your OTA education as a career changer or new graduate is no easy feat – there’s a lot you have to manage. This may require you to dial back on any extracurricular activities for at least 16-24 months.
As you begin the first semester, you can expect to hit roadblocks along the way. However, with the right resources, like St. Kate’s team of academic success coaches, you can remain focused and organized throughout your entire journey.
Resources to help you succeed: Your academic success coach.
“Every two weeks my academic advisor will contact me to see if there’s anything she can do to help me succeed,” says Tiffany, a current student in St. Catherine Online OTA program.
Whether you need help studying for an upcoming exam or just want to talk about the program, your success coach is there to provide you with helpful resources to keep you engaged and on track. For example, if staying organized is not your forte, your academic success coach will provide you with a time management chart. This chart will outline your core obligations and responsibilities, helping you visualize where your time is spent most.
“The academic success coaches have our best interests at heart,” says Michaela, another student in St. Kate’s online OTA program. “You aren’t just another number.”
4. Passing the NBCOT exam.
Earning your OTA degree is a huge accomplishment. Not only does it show that you have proven your competency in both the classroom and clinical setting, but it confirms that you are ready to step into a lifelong career as an OTA. There’s just one more step to overcome before you can officially become a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) – the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.
The NBCOT exam is four hours long and consists of three major clinical simulation test (CST) items and 170 multiple choice questions. That may leave you feeling overwhelmed, but St. Kate’s NBCOT prep coaching program can provide you with the tools and techniques to overcome your fears and anxieties.
Resources to help you succeed: NBCOT Prep Coaching Program.
The NBCOT Prep Coaching Program is a free program that begins at the start of your third semester. The program is built on three major components: preparation, coaching, and performance.
First, you will be required to take a 200-question practice exam. Shortly after, you will receive a personalized seven-week study plan that hones in on the concepts that need strengthening, based on your results. Along with your study plan, there will be weekly group sessions that you and members of your cohort can attend. Lastly, you’ll have the opportunity to sit down with a licensed occupational therapy coach who will give you invaluable insight and guidance.
Will you rise to the opportunity?
Pursuing your online OTA education is difficult, but with the right tools and resources, it’s certainly possible. Now that you understand what it takes to find success in St. Catherine University’s Online Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program, it’s time to begin your OTA education. Reach out to an admissions counselor today.