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.
The opinions expressed in my blog are personal and neither represent the views of my employer nor any organization.