For almost 15 years, I have listened to concerns, complaints and debates about how to increase the level of engagement and involvement of occupational therapy assistant (OTA) leaders in AOTA. The topic was debated in the Special Interest Sections in the early 2000’s when I served as Chairperson of the Special Interest Sections Steering Committee. It was debated in the late 2000’s when I served as Speaker of the Representative Assembly. It was debated more recently when I served on the Board of Directors as Secretary of AOTA and I am listening to concerns, complaints and debate today as I run for the office of AOTA Vice-President.
Over the last week, I have had four critical conversations with OTA educators and leaders and followed many more conversations on social media. I have reached out to occupational therapy assistant educational programs nationwide and I am beginning to hear from faculty. If we have not significantly impacted the perception and level of satisfaction with engagement and inclusion in AOTA of our OTA members and leaders over 15 years it is time for a new approach.
I honestly believe that both the volunteer leaders and paid staff of our association value the contributions of OTAs and believe deeply in the potential for the future contributions to both established practice areas and emerging practice areas such as primary care and population health initiatives. I am fully convinced that both our volunteer leaders and association staff see OTAs as a critical piece of achieving Vision 2025. Still, it seems clear that absent a significant change, a new approach must be adopted.
I would like to present an initial short list of actionable strategies that could be enacted to increase the engagement of OTAs in AOTA leadership. We need actionable strategies because as one OTA leader said to me (paraphrased), “I respect passion for occupational therapy, but I need to hear that leaders have ideas about what to do!”
This is just an initial list and I hope to hear more from OTA practitioners, educators. leaders and students about other actionable strategies we could take to engage occupational therapy assistants in AOTA leadership and the profession.
Please send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, friend me and/or send me a message on Facebook or contact me through www.brentbraveman.com.
Also, please look for details on two “Listening Sessions” that I will be holding to give occupational therapy assistants the opportunity to share more ideas, concerns and feedback to me as a candidate for AOTA Vice-President.
These sessions are schedule for:
If you would like to be sent an invitation to one of the listening sessions, please send my your Email address and the date that you would like to attend.
Thank you to those of you who have shared your ideas!
What I bring as an occupational therapy researcher/scholar to and candidate for AOTA Vice-President.
In this post I would like present my experience as an occupational therapy researcher/scholar and describe how I can promote and support research and scholarship as the Vice-President of AOTA.
I have 33 years of experience as an occupational therapist and have knowledge, skills and experience that prepare me to advocate for the roles of researcher and scholar on the AOTA Board of Directors. I received my PhD in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2002. I received my first research funding as a doctoral student to develop and pilot a return to work program for people living with HIV/AIDS at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago. As part of the project I followed 16 men who completed the program for one year and used the data to complete my doctoral dissertation on a “Qualitative Study of the Subscales of the Occupational Performance History Interview.”
In follow-up, my mentor and research partner Gary Kielhofner and I received funding for two federal research grants totaling $1.2 million dollars and carried out two more studies including the only two-group control study investigating the effectiveness of occupational therapy in return to work for this population to date. Our work influenced the delivery of work related services to persons living with HIV/AIDS nationwide and resulted in testimony before the National Institute of Medicine Committee on Social Security HIV Disability Criteria in 2010.
In addition to my own research, I sat on NIH review panels 9 times including the Small Business Technology Transfer Program and a panel on Stigma and Global Health. I have participated as an invited subject matter expert on the “National Cancer Institute Evidence-Based Approaches for Optimizing Employment Outcomes among Cancer Survivors” in 2016 and the “National Institutes of Health Subject Matter Expert Panel on Cancer Rehabilitation" in 2015. In March of 2018 I will serve as an invited participant to the American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) Grant Planning Workshop focused on aiding cancer survivors to engage in work and daily life roles.”
During my 19 years at UIC I served as the Program Director for the entry-level educational program and collaborated with our tenure-track faculty closely. I gained much experience and familiarity with the challenges of pursuing all levels of funding while balancing research with teaching and other academic duties. As a scholar who has authored two text books, 22 peer reviewed journal articles and 15 book chapters I have an appreciation for the hard work and contributions of the researcher/scholars in our profession.
As Vice-President of AOTA, I will bring my knowledge and experience of the research process, along with my passion for occupational therapy and represent researchers on the Board of Directors, to the American Occupational Therapy Foundation, and to funding agencies that support the development of evidence for the value of occupational therapy interventions. I will be a strong voice for the need to promote the development of new researchers, post-doctoral experiences and mentoring of students to pursue a career in science in the field of occupational therapy. I will work to develop new opportunities to support academic-practice collaborations to promote a scholarship of practice.
I hope that you will consider casting your vote for me. Do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions, concerns or feedback you would like to provide through this website or at email@example.com
Progressive Leadership: My Leadership Journey
As attention to the upcoming AOTA elections has increased I have read multiple comments about the length of service for some of us who have a passion for volunteering for our state and national professional associations. Not all of the comments were complimentary. Some were about the same folk just swapping seats, and one described the process as inbreeding (Yikes!). This prompted me to want to share the story of my leadership journey. I see my leadership journey as one of progressive leadership; an intentional effort to assume increasingly more important roles as my professional knowledge, skills and potential to contribute has increased.
I was extraordinarily lucky to have excellent mentorship early in my career. Even as a student I knew I wanted to be involved in the profession on a national basis. I chose to do a Level II fieldwork at AOTA and completed it in the Department of Continuing Education. My supervisor Susan Robertson became my first mentor. She encouraged and challenged me to get involved! With just four years of experience, I ran and was elected first for Vice-President and then President of the District of Columbia Occupational Therapy Association. I have to be honest, the DCOTA was reconstituting itself at the time after having been disbanded, and both times I was on the ballot I ran unopposed! Still, as a practitioner with limited experience I think it tells you something about my enthusiasm and drive that I put myself forward and assumed the leadership of a State Association.
As perhaps the youngest member of what was then called the “Committee of State Association Presidents (CSAP)” I learned a tremendous amount. I started to gain an understanding of the importance of state associations and the relationships between state associations and AOTA. I was introduced to the structure of AOTA and the influence that leaders can have on the profession through advocacy and clearly and logically articulating a point of view. It fired my interest in volunteerism and I was hooked on volunteering for AOTA.
I recently found a quote about failure that rings true for me. The quote is that “failure is delay, not defeat (Lax, 2016).” Not every step on my journey has been smooth. In fact my next step on my journey was running for the Chairperson of the Administration and Management Special Interest Section (AMSIS). I lost that election, but was asked to serve on AMSIS as the Education/Research Liaison and I jumped at the chance. My education about the association and about the needs of AOTA members continued and three years later I ran for AMSIS Chair again, and won.
As AMSIS Chair I had the opportunity to serve on the Special Interest Sections Steering Committee (SISSC) that coordinated much of the activities of the SISs. This gave me the opportunity to learn about occupational therapy practice in a whole new light. I began to understand the cross connections between various practice areas, the challenges we shared and what each group uniquely contributed to the distinct value of occupational therapy. I also gained exposure to a group of leaders who each had their own style and set of skills and in turn this helped me develop.
In 2003, the Chair of the SISSC resigned because she accepted a paid position for AOTA. AOTA President Mary Evert asked me to assume the position and I served as the appointed SISSC Chair for two years and then chose to run for the position and was elected to a three-year term in 2005 as Chair of the renamed Special Interest Sections Council (SISC). The five years in this position were amazing and contributed more than I can describe to my development as a leader. For five years I sat in a voting position in the Representative Assembly (RA). I learned about AOTA policy and procedure, how association policy is developed (the good, the bad and the very confusing!), and gained a deep understanding of how our very small but incredibly skilled AOTA staff support the volunteer leadership. I made mistakes as a leader and grew from them and gained insight into my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. For the first time I had the opportunity to dip my toe into mentoring and providing support to less experienced volunteer leaders who were coming up behind me.
My next step in progressive leadership was to run and to be elected to be Speaker of the Representative Assembly (RA). This was a significant accomplishment and challenge as an occupational therapy leader. I did not “grow up” in the RA and had not served as a representative (RA Rep). Because I have served as a voting member of the RA for five years I did not consider it an obstacle that I had not served as a Rep and was surprised by the resistance I encountered by some to my candidacy. Shortly after being elected, a long-time volunteer in the RA challenged me by asking me, “Why are you here? Why did you run for Speaker and what do you want?” I realized that with each progressive step in Association leadership, I need to prove myself both in terms of skill and in terms of commitment and motivation. Serving as Speaker of the RA was perhaps the single most valuable learning experience I’ve had in volunteer leadership. Guiding 80ish voting volunteer members through a structured decision making process (Robert’s Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure), coordinating the contributions of multiple bodies of the association and negotiating participation by volunteer leadership and paid staff and serving on the Board of Directors……whew!
One of my contributions to the RA was to make some changes in operations for the better such as streamlining the way we processed minor changes to documents or documents that were reviewed and did not require any change. Like all AOTA bodies, I had a staff liaison that had staffed the RA for some time. On several occasions I would ask, “Why do we do it that way?” I would listen to the answer which sometimes included “It's the way its been done” and would reply, “Okay, we are not doing that, this is what we are going to do….” I learned A LOT about facilitating change in a complex organization. I also learned a lot about being a leader who cannot always say everything you would like to say. On multiple occasions I was asked what I thought about a controversial issue coming before the RA and my answer had to be, “As Speaker I do not have an opinion, my job is to assure fair debate and transparent decision making.” Boy that was hard! I learned that often members want leaders to listen, not speak. I continued to learn more about how AOTA is organized and about the complex process of coordinating decision-making by volunteer leaders and the work product of AOTA paid staff. Perhaps most importantly I had a crash course in responding to the breadth and diversity of AOTA member feedback. During face-to-face RA meetings at annual conference it was not uncommon to be crossing a hotel lobby and to encounter a member who would give you their passionate opinion about what should happen with a motion before the RA, only to walk 50 feet and encounter a member who gave an equally passionate opinion about why the opposite action should be taken on the same issue!
One major challenge that I faced and handled successfully during my term as Speaker, was making the decision to cancel a face-to-face meeting at the 2009 Annual Conference and hold the meeting entirely Online. This decision was made in conjunction with AOTA President Penny Moyers and AOTA Executive Director Fred Somers as a response to the dire budget situation following the market crash of 2008. AOTA took a big hit to its investments and had to find ways to eliminate expenses until they recovered. Penny and Fred scheduled a phone call with me and when I found out that we could save $150,000 by holding the face-to-face meeting Online, I quickly said, “I’ll find a way to make it work” and we did. It took many hours of work and several weeks of late evenings and early mornings but the RA Leadership Team and our AOTA staff Liaison pulled it off. I learned a lot about the need and the capacity for volunteers to be flexible when something really important is on the line!
My next attempt progressive leadership was to run for the office of Vice-President. The Vice-President plays a major role in guiding strategic planning for the BOD, chaired the Centennial Vision Commission and led the annual performance evaluation of the AOTA Executive Director. These are activities that I am well suited for based on prior experience. I have led multiple groups including non-profit organizations, a faculty and state associations in visioning and strategic planning activities. My first run for VP did not work out and I lost the election to Amy Lamb who did an amazing job as VP and is now our President.
While I was disappointed at not becoming VP, I decided to jump right back in and was elected as AOTA Secretary the next year. As Secretary I served on the Bylaws, Policies and Procedure Committee (the BPPC). While this might not sound like a lot of fun, it is an invaluable experience. As Secretary I became intimately familiar with the Bylaws and the policies and procedures that guide all AOTA activities. This is a knowledge and skill set that is very helpful for AOTA leaders who are often faced with complex situations and have to devise action plans that are not only ethical and effective, but that also follow the rules set out the Bylaws, policies and procedures. During my term the BPPC completed a major overhaul of the Bylaws, policies, procedures due to a change in the law that governs AOTA incorporation in the District of Columbia. After serving as Speaker of the RA and as Secretary, there are few volunteer leaders who have the depth of understanding that I have of the documents that guide the operation of our Association.
So here I am in 2017, and making another run for the Vice-Presidency and taking the next step on my progressive leadership journey. I am doing so because I am passionate about occupational therapy and about our professional association. I believe that the biggest contribution I can make to occupational therapy is through volunteer leadership. Each step that I have taken in my journey has added to my knowledge, skills and capacities to serve as Vice-President. I hope my journey illustrates that progressive leadership is a lot more than just swapping seats and that my journey has prepared me to take this next step and to be successful.
I would be honored to serve as your Vice-President and you have my pledge that I will be fully committed, accessible and engaged with you, the members. I have adopted this personal mission statement:
I will be a servant leader and AOTA Vice-President who is constantly engaged and accessible to AOTA members working tirelessly to meet member needs and to achieve AOTA's Vision 2025.
Please reach out to me with any questions, concerns or suggestions. You can Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, friend me on Facebook, send me a tweet at @brentbraveman or check out my personal webpage to learn more about me at www.brentbraveman.com.
I have been listening to occupational therapy practitioners and reading a lot about concerns over the ACOTE mandates to move to a single point of entry for the occupational therapist at the doctoral level and for the occupational therapy assistant at the baccalaureate level by 2027. One issue that I am gravely concerned about is one gap in thinking between some of those who support these moves and some who oppose it. This gap has to do with thinking about what these changes mean, why they are being proposed and about how we value the skills, knowledge and experience of seasoned practitioners.
Many of those who support the mandates focus on the possibilities for changing the knowledge and skills of the entry-level practitioners we graduate. The thinking is that we can reform our educational programs to prepare graduates to move into leadership roles in existing practice settings more quickly and to be better prepared for practice in evolving settings. Essential to this line of thinking is that we not just “tack on” an additional semester or two, but that we reformulate the accreditation standards to provide content that supports entry-level practitioners thriving in the practice settings and environments of 2027 and beyond.
One theme I am hearing among the concerns of some who oppose the mandates is that they are perceiving the message that the knowledge, skills and critical reasoning abilities that they have gained over years of practice is not being valued; that advanced degrees are being valued more than experience. It strikes me that regardless of how we move forward as a profession and regardless of whether you support or oppose the mandates, this is a perception gap that we must close.
My occupational therapy degree is at the baccalaureate level in 1984. I went on and obtained a Master’s degree in 1992 and a research doctorate degree in 2002. I chose to obtain advanced degrees because I perceived that they would provide me skill sets I did not obtain in my entry-level education and open doors to roles and opportunities that would not be accessible to me with my entry-level degree. I do not remember if there was expressions of concern over not valuing experience equally with a graduate degree as the profession debated the move to a post-baccalaureate level. They may have existed and I was just not tuned in to them at the time. However, I am sure that I never had concerns that my years of experience (which would have been 13 in 2007) would not be valued.
I have worked in one form of administrative role or another since 1989 and have frequently been in the position of evaluating candidates for hire or other opportunities. While I value what advanced degrees bring to a candidate, they do not replace experience. I have perceived that many entry-level candidates with an OTD (or DPT, as I am responsible for a large rehabilitation department) have skills that students prepared at the masters level do not (it depends on the programs!). Still, I have never perceived the clinical doctoral degree as any form of substitution for the skills, knowledge, critical and professional reasoning that comes with years of practice. If we are open to, or especially interested in an entry-level practitioner than the OTD may be a tipping point on the scale, but if we need experience, the clinical doctorate has never been seen as equal or a substitution.
Many times now I have read the questions, “What is wrong with our students now?” or “What is the problem with the quality of our current education?” More often I am hearing the question, “What is lacking that my years of experience won’t satisfy?” My answer has been that if we move forward with the OTD as the single point of entry for the occupational therapist, it has to be about preparing for a different future. It is NOT a reaction to a problem now or to fix any issue with quality, but about graduating a different type of entry-level practitioner for a future that will require a different set of entry-level skills.
I appreciate that many members of the profession think that the move is unnecessary or that it will not achieve the desired outcome for one reason or another. Debate on those issues as well as other pros and cons is important and should continue, and as much as possible should be driven by data, the highest quality evidence available, and sound logic. However, I think that as the debate continues it is critical that our messaging and our common understanding changes.
We need to acknowledge clearly and loudly that, experience matters. If you are a baccalaureate or masters educated practitioner with years of experience under your belt, you offer the profession something than cannot be replaced with any advanced degree. Your skills, knowledge and capacity for reasoning are golden, and you should hear loud and clear that you critical to our future, and part of the solution. You are not a problem to solve and we cannot replace you. If that message has not been clearly conveyed, as someone who has advocated for moving to the OTD as entry-level, I apologize and seek to correct the record.
I would love to hear others’ thoughts questions and concerns. Please feel free to email me at email@example.com, friend me on Facebook, send me a tweet at @brentbraveman or contact me through my personal website www.brentbraveman.com.
I have been asked about my position on the mandates by the Accreditation Council on Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) to move to a single point of entry for the occupational therapist at the doctoral level and for the occupational therapy assistant at the baccalaureate level by 2027. I think it is important for candidates for AOTA leadership positions to be engaged and respond to requests from members to share their opinions, positions and thinking. These are complicated issues so a thoughtful response cannot be given in 140 or 280 characters!
I have been having conversations with occupational therapy practitioners and students at several conferences and events and reading communications on social media. I have seen and heard numerous references to the importance of transparency; so let me begin there by being transparent about my past activities related to a single entry-level for the occupational therapist.
I served on the AOTA Board of Directors (BOD) from 2013-2016 including the time when the BOD issued its position statement on moving to a single point of entry for the occupational therapist at the doctoral level. In fact, I led one of the Ad Hoc committees that led to the BOD assuming its position and agreed to coordinate communication on behalf of the BOD on OTConnections. It was not an easy decision. There were clear pros and cons and I have stated on numerous occasions that thoughtful and informed members interpreted the same information differently and reached a different conclusion. At that time, and today, I believe that what would serve the profession the best in the long term would be moving to a single point of entry at the doctoral level for the occupational therapist. My personal rationale was largely in line with the rationale provided by the BOD in 2014 and you can find information at https://www.aota.org/AboutAOTA/Get-Involved/BOD/OTD-FAQs.aspx.
While I favor ultimately moving to the OTD entry-level for the occupational therapist, I also think that how we get there is critically important. I believe that while the position of the BOD or any other decision making body is important, the process for making a decision on critical issues such as these is more important. In 2014 the BOD issued its statement AND called for a profession wide dialogue. It then set about creating numerous opportunities and venues to facilitate that dialogue. Despite attempts to convince members of the profession, consensus was not achieved and ACOTE made a determination to keep entry at two points. The process the BOD used was transparent and while not everyone had the same interpretation of data and information, it was clear how the BOD came to its position and what the position was based upon. We engaged with membership, answered questions and listened to those who shared the same position and those who did not.
I was surprised by the announcement that ACOTE had voted to mandate changes in the entry-level requirement for both the OT and the OTA. To my knowledge, ACOTE used its independent decision making authority and no one including the current BOD received notice in advance of ACOTE’s announcement.
I do not currently have enough information to voice my support for changing the entry-level requirement for the OTA to the baccalaureate level and I have more concerns about the down sides than I did with the decision for the OT. Like the move to the OTD, I can see clear advantages and disadvantages, but I do not have access to a clear rationale used by ACOTE and have many unanswered questions that I expect should be answered by a clear report by ACOTE.
I am pleased that ACOTE has responded to concerns of members and non-members, has held the move in abeyance and is collecting feedback. Despite my belief that the best interest of the profession would be to ultimately move to the OTD entry for the occupational therapist, I would support a similar decision by ACOTE in this regard at this time. The expectation of being provided a clear report on the data, information and other forms of evidence used to make determinations is appropriate and should be forthcoming in regards to both mandates. In the absence of these reports, I cannot voice my support for moving forward with the mandates.
Finally, I want to express my thanks and respect for the members of the BOD and of ACOTE for their service. Whether I agree or disagree with any individual decision by either body, my experience with members of both groups over the years has been extremely positive. Calls for more information and transparency in regards to the decision making process are reasonable. However, I am disappointed and disheartened to read and hear some suggestions that members of these bodies are acting with anything but the best interest of the profession in mind. Moreover, in my two terms serving on the BOD as Chairperson of the SISSC Council and as Secretary, I saw nothing to indicate that the independent decision making authority of ACOTE was not in place in full force.
I hope that I have stated this clearly, but understand that there may additional questions. I am happy to answer questions, but am not involved in advocating any other action that those I have stated here at this time.
The opinions expressed in my blog are personal and neither represent the views of my employer nor any organization.