Staying Up-to-Date on State Regulations: North Carolina's New Rules Take Effect
The North Carolina Board of Occupational Therapy (NCBOT) recently adopted a number of amendments to its rules that govern occupational therapy practice, in order to align with current practice and the state's practice act. The new rules, which contain some key changes in supervision, continuing competency, and other licensure requirements, went into effect July 1, 2007, with the exception of continuing competency requirements which will take effect July 1, 2008. North Carolina licensees can read the new rules online at the state board's Web site. (www.ncbot.org)
"In North Carolina, these rules have brought occupational therapy into the 21st century," declared NCBOT Chairperson Brenda Kennell. The rules changes affect almost every occupational therapy practitioner in North Carolina, particularly because of the changes to the supervision of occupational therapy assistants and continuing competency requirements.
AOTA's Model Language Used
Among some of the revisions, NCBOT updated the procedures for obtaining an initial license and revised and clarified rules regarding the supervision of occupational therapy personnel. "The new rules make it very clear that services provided by unlicensed personnel are not considered skilled occupational therapy," said North Carolina Occupational Therapy Association (NCOTA) President Carol Siebert.
The rules include many definitions that more clearly delineate aspects of occupational therapy and continuing competence, in addition to a contemporary definition of occupational therapy adapted from model language developed by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
"AOTA is equipped to research and produce the best possible document. Why reinvent the wheel?" added Kennell. "It was such a relief to us not to have to try and create these definitions from the ground up."
Regulations Reflect Current Practice
This process started in 2003 when NCOTA and NCBOT worked to update the state's Practice Act. The Act became state law in 2005, at which point the licensure board initiated the process of updating the rules. "The Practice Act is law, but the regulations flesh out and operationalize the law," Siebert says. "A lot of people invested a lot of hours to make sure we have something that reflects current practice and that gives appropriate guidance to practitioners."
In January 2007, NCBOT proposed changes to its rules. Representatives from AOTA and NCOTA testified at a January 22 hearing and provided written comments. The Rules Review Commission approved the amendments in April and May.
NCBOT gathered input from numerous sources, including North Carolina practitioners, NCOTA, and AOTA. "When we posted the rules and asked for comments, so many practitioners in North Carolina took the time to review the pages and pages of documentation and sent in their suggestions and comments. That was great because it helped us to see what they were facing in the real world, and it led to some changes," Kennell said.
NCBOT and NCOTA expect the new rules to greatly benefit the profession and the public. "We were using rules that were written in 1985 that don't reflect current educational standards, credentialing standards, practice, supervision, or even current settings for practice," says Siebert. "The new rules are very much reflective of where the profession currently is in all those areas, and that is an enormous accomplishment."
Staying up to date is important for everyone. "All practitioners need to be aware of what their state laws and rules say," Siebert says. "A lot of people are familiar with the law, but the rules and regulations are where you get down into the nitty-gritty details of what governs day-to-day practice."
Oregon Rules Changing
States often make rules changes and it is important for practitioners to provide comment. Currently, Oregon's Occupational Therapy Licensing Board is proposing changes to clarify the definition of occupational therapy and reflect a contemporary view of the profession. Oregon licensees are encouraged to examine and comment on the proposed changes, which are available through the state's Occupational Therapy Licensing Board. Comments are due July 27, 2007.