The following question was asked on CommunOT of candidates for AOTA office:
What are your strategies to not only getting OTA's to join AOTA as members, but also serve in AOTA leadership down the line? Here is my answer:
Thank you for this important question. Engaging OTA students and practitioners in our state associations and in AOTA has been a long-term challenge. We have made some progress including OTAs serving in elected positions on the AOTA Board of Directors, but we can do better.
I believe that valuing participation in our professional associations starts with enculturation to the profession as a student in our educational programs. This is true for both occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants. We need strong role models in faculty who are members of their state association and AOTA and who are actively involved. Active involvement can mean many things and is not limited to volunteering for committees or running for offices. Active involvement can include things such as attendance at meetings and continuing education events, reviewing and giving feedback on official documents, networking with colleagues and making yourself available to students and others as a mentor. Faculty can highlight the value of AOTA membership and engagement through case examples in coursework, through assignments that make use of AOTA resources and through the use of guest speakers who can generate interest and excitement about involvement in AOTA.
To support OTA engagement in our association we need to consistently practice the use of inclusive language and exemplars. Too often I still see reference to ‘occupational therapists’ rather than ‘occupational therapy practitioners’ or better yet ‘occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants.’ Too often clinical examples and stories only include reference to occupational therapists and not occupational therapy assistants. We need to assure that OTAs are promoted visibly on the AOTA website, in AOTA documents and products and at AOTA events. I believe the potential to use social media to underrepresented groups in AOTA including OTAs remains an untapped resource.
We can promote membership and engagement through clear guidelines for volunteer selection for committees, Ad Hoc groups and task forces that include selection of OTA members whenever possible and appropriate. We need to move beyond simply the suggestion to “try” and recruit OTAs and set the expectation that it become routine.
We can specifically target OTA recruitment for positions that sometimes go vacant, such as being a Representative in our Representative Assembly or positions in leadership in our Special Interest Sections. We can promote leadership development and mentoring opportunities in ways that specifically speak to OTA students and practitioners. AOTA has plans for the development of a leadership development curriculum and we must expect that it includes opportunities specifically for OTA’s. And we can demonstrate the value of membership and strongly promote the contribution that OTA leaders can make by sharing the experiences of OTA role models and mentors.
Recent changes such as the implementation of Patient Driven Payment Model (PDPM) and the Patient Driven Grouping Models (PDGM) have created challenges for OTAs that are amplifying an already difficult job market in some areas of our country. AOTA must aggressively and continually reach out to our OTA members and to non-members to assess their needs and assure that we are doing all that we can to meet them.
As Vice-President, I would commit to engaging OTA members in activities related to AOTA’s Vision 2025 and our strategic priorities. I would seek to highlight the value that OTAs add to our profession and our Association and make it clear that I am a strong advocate for them.
Position Statement for the Office of Vice-President of the American Occupational Therapy Association
Position Statement for the Office of Vice-President of the American Occupational Therapy Association (its tough to say a lot in 200 words!)
In the next 5 years, AOTA must continue the momentum achieved by recent successful leaders while reaching out to the growing number of disenchanted and disenfranchised practitioners who fail to see the value of AOTA membership. Many practitioners are reeling from the effects of decreasing reimbursement, layoffs, and skyrocketing student debt.
Different times call for different leadership approaches and right now we must get back to basics. We must prioritize the needs of the nearly 80% of occupational therapy practitioners working in schools, home health, long-term care, and traditional hospital and outpatient settings. We must create a home for our entrepreneurs and business owners. However, we don’t have to choose between visioning for our future, fostering emerging practice, and supporting those in traditional practice. We can do all three. Success is not a zero-sum game!
The skills and qualities I will bring to the position of Vice President include my commitment to servant leadership, listening and connecting with the membership and putting our professional community first. I have excellent management, leadership, and communication skills. I have extensive experience in OT practice, education, research and volunteer leadership in AOTA and the community. Most importantly, I have a burning passion for occupational therapy.
This question was asked of candidates for AOTA office:
Describe your ideas for engaging members and creating value in order to enhance and sustain growth of the AOTA member experience.
Here is my answer:
Thank you for this important question. Improving member engagement and creating value to enhance and sustain growth of AOTA members is longstanding challenge facing the AOTA Board of Directors and AOTA staff. Of the 65,206 AOTA members at the end of fiscal year 2020 only 56% were occupational therapy practitioners (49% OT and 7% OTA) and 44% were student members. After many years and many efforts to increase the perception of our "value proposition" to non-members we continue to struggle to convince occupational therapy practitioners in the US that $225 for an OT and $131 for an OTA is worth the value they receive. To date we have not been successful.
Listening to non-members concerns and perceptions about AOTA on social media, in person at conferences and other events and in other forums leads me to believe that we have not been successful in connecting with them to address their day to day practice concerns and needs. Many express frustrations that AOTA is not "doing something" about the problems they encounter including:
Engaging members in addressing these issues is critical, because low membership numbers create a self-propagating circle where we cannot create the resources and a critical mass to overcome problems leading to continued dissatisfaction and lower membership numbers.
Some ideas for engaging members to create value to enhance and sustain growth of the AOTA member experience include:
It should be recognized that this is not a new problem, nor one that is easily solved. Most professional associations face similar challenges and AOTA staff regularly participate in association meeting such as the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) to get new ideas about how to better meet member needs. We have long employed specialists in membership growth and member service. AOTA staff and Board members are to be commended for their efforts. And still, the significance of the problem only means that we need to re-double our efforts.
We are in a challenging time, but we have faced tough times before and continue to grow and to thrive. I look forward to the opportunity to join with other volunteer leaders to address these challenges head on as the next Vice-President of AOTA.
I would love to hear from AOTA members to hear your ideas about what AOTA can do better to engage you in the process and to meet your needs! Please contact me through CommunOT or at firstname.lastname@example.org , friend me on Facebook or visit my website at www.brentbraveman.com
AOTA will soon stare the position statements of candidates for AOTA office. I am running for Vice-President.
In this 3 minutes video I share a few thoughts about my match for the job of AOTA Vice-President, my experiences with strategic planning and how I'll work to meet member needs and move AOTA to the next level of being an effective member service organization.
The opinions expressed in my blog are personal and neither represent the views of my employer nor any organization.