What Are They and How Can Students Get Involved?
Whether you are a practicing occupational therapy assistant professional or you are thinking about enrolling in an online occupational therapy assistant program, it’s important to be aware of and understand the OT organizations whose missions include furthering the OT and OTA professions and serving its practitioners and students. Such professional organizations provide a voice for the industry, set standards and they can also influence public policy and law. In addition, these organizations allow practitioners and students to grow professionally by offering networking opportunities and alternative ways to become more involved in the world of OT and OTA.
American Occupational Therapy Association
Established in 1917 and located in Maryland, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is dedicated to representing the interests of occupational therapy practitioners and students of occupational therapy. AOTA’s activities include the continuous improvement in the quality of occupational therapy services, improving consumer access to health care services, and promoting the professional development of its members. AOTA is a national organization, and currently has about 50,000 members. All states are represented, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, and membership extends internationally.
How are OT and OTA students and professionals involved with AOTA?
AOTA established the Assembly of Student Delegates, which “provides a mechanism for the expression of student concerns, and offers a means whereby students can have effective input into AOTA affairs,” according to the AOTA website. Each year OT and OTA educational programs send representatives to the ASD Annual Meeting where students share concerns, ask questions and present action items to the Board of Directors and other AOTA bodies.
National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy
Also located in Maryland, the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) was created to serve the public interest by setting standards for patient/client care and certification of practicing OTs and OTAs. NBCOT’s certifications are indicators of professional competence. Through the NBCOT, occupational therapists may become Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR®), and occupational therapy assistants may earn the designation of Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA®), and thereby are “committed to providing safe and effective occupational therapy services to children, adults, the elderly, and communities.” NBCOT initial certification is a requisite for licensure in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The certification process includes successfully passing a certification exam. NBCOT offers a range of services and tools to assist in preparation for the exam.
How are OT and OTA students and professionals involved with NBCOT?
NBCOT offers a volunteer program that provides opportunities to network with other students and professionals from across the country. The volunteer program is a great way to shape your educational experience and a vehicle to influence the OT and OTA professions.
The American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF)
A charitable organization founded in 1965, the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) supports occupational therapy research and educates the public on the importance of health and everyday activities.
How are students and professionals involved with the AOTF?
AOTF offers OT and OTA scholarships and grants to students enrolled in accredited programs.
In addition, AOTF established Pi Theta Epsilon (PTE), a specialized honor society for occupational therapy students and alumni. The mission of PTE is “to promote research and scholarship among occupational therapy students.”
State occupational therapy associations
Nearly all states have a state-level occupational therapy association, many of which offer volunteer programs and scholarships. Research your state’s OT association to find out what is available to you. For example, there is the Minnesota Occupational Therapy Association (MOTA) and the Virginia Occupational Therapy Association (VOTA).
While this summary of OT and OTA organizations is certainly not comprehensive, it should give you a good idea of the organizations that provide additional ways to enhance your student and professional experiences in OT and OTA.
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