How Representative Assembly Members Are Promoting the Centennial Vision
by Francie Baxter, PhD, OT, FAOTA, and Yvonne Randall, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA
2017 marks the centennial anniversary of the formation of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), and many of us have been working to achieve the goals of AOTA's Centennial Vision (CV):
We envision that occupational therapy is a powerful, widely recognized, science-driven, and evidence-based profession with a globally connected and diverse workforce meeting society's occupational needs.
The Representative Assembly (RA) is the body responsible for establishing professional standards and policies. In addition to our collective work, many RA members have been promoting and supporting the CV in their own communities. This article is the result of a query to the members of the Assembly in the spring of 2012 to identify specific activities they are doing to achieve various components of the CV.
The first goal of the CV is that occupational therapy is powerful. Many of the day-to-day activities practitioners do with our clients contribute to occupational therapy becoming powerful.
- Going beyond daily client care, Karen Meiring, the representative from Tennessee, has been appealing for occupational therapy cases for Medicare Zone Program Integrity Contractor (ZPIC) audits. In her work, she reviews documentation and advocates for reasonable and medically necessary skilled occupational therapy services.
- The representative from Maryland, Rene Bookoff, shares resources through technology, stating "I've utilized Internet technology to conduct online information sessions for my constituents. Besides a lively discussion on the current motions, I was able to demonstrate the use of tools and resources available on the AOTA Web site, including the COOL and SIS toolkits."
Helping achieve the goal of being widely recognized can occur through a variety of activities, including legislative and educational.
- Many of the representatives, including Margot Elacqua from New York and Chris Merchant from Arizona, among others, worked on legislation related to Practice Act changes or represented occupational therapy interests at state OT Days in their capitals. Additionally, Karen James, the representative from Minnesota, created and implemented a Day at the Capital and led 100-plus occupational therapy practitioners and students through a blizzard to a very successful day!
- Jim Marc Avete from Maine, Nancy Clark from Montana, Gloria Lucker the former nominations chair, and Francie Baxter the former vice speaker, have done community presentations that promote recognition of occupational therapy and provide a valuable community service by educating attendees on ways to prevent injury and disease so they can continue to participate in functional activities. Presentation topics include preventing repetitive strain injuries and promoting healthy lifestyle choices.
- Nancy Clark from Montana presented to medical staff and other professionals promoting the role of occupational therapy in addressing various conditions; and Florence Clark, AOTA's president is a member of the California Autism Task Force to ensure that occupational therapy is well recognized in the treatment of autism.
- Whitney Wynder, the former representative of the student delegates, reported that the work she does at the grassroots level in advocating for her clients is raising awareness of the value of occupational therapy. One example she cited is when she researched local organizations that lent or donated durable medical equipment, and she was able to secure a donation of a $1,000 wheelchair for one of her patients.
All AOTA members can help occupational therapy become more widely recognized. Day-to-day interactions demonstrating the positive effect of occupational therapy are just as valuable as legislative or promotional activities. (See the special issue of OT Practice on promotion and advocacy for more ideas.)
Evidence-Based and Science-Driven
Evidence-based and science driven interventions and practices are not limited to researchers at universities. RA members have been embracing evidence-based and science-driven practice in clinically relevant ways.
- Tonya Bay, the representative from Colorado, reported that her facility was planning on spending a large portion of its budget on equipment, based on a new treatment approach. She researched and discovered that the evidence did not support the proposed approach. She was able to convince her facility administrators that if they wanted to purchase the equipment, they should create a clinical research project related to patient outcomes to determine its effectiveness.
- The alternate representative from Indiana researched evidence-based information from the occupational therapy literature to develop a functional screening tool to be used for case management with her company. Her investigations were extended to provide information on outcomes in Indiana Medicaid managed care programs.
- To help build state-level support for research, both Francie Baxter, the former vice-speaker, and Chris Merchant, the representative from Arizona,wrote criteria for state association–sponsored research grant proposals. Now state association members in Texas and Arizona can apply for research funding for clinically related research.
- Penny Rogers, the representative from Mississippi, is an instructor in a university. In at least one of her classes, she requires the students to use peer reviewed literature and research to design an evidence-based treatment plan for a specific population. She also stresses the importance of her students being life-long learners.
- Kathy Foley, the representative from Alabama, is actively involved in a research project exploring disparities in toileting disability among older black and white women. She will use the results to inform OT interventions with these populations.
- Another clinician, Camille Skubik-Paplaski, from Kentucky, is researching occupation-based practice using transcranial magnetic stimulation as an outcome tool.
All AOTA members can contribute to occupational therapy being a science-driven, evidence-based profession by conducting their own research studies, pairing with either a researcher or a clinician to co-author studies, ensuring that their interventions are supported by evidence, or using clinical reasoning to determine whether an intervention is having the desired effect, and changing course if it is not. Check out AOTA's Evidence-Based Practice and Research tools for more information.
Being globally connected includes expanding mechanisms and opportunities for collaboration and communication. Members of the RA are using their knowledge and skills as well as technology and social media to ensure that occupational therapy is globally connected.
- Several representatives are involved in efforts in Haiti, including those from Tennessee and California. Jami Flick, the alternate representative from Tennessee volunteered as an occupational therapist for 6 weeks in Haiti with Haiti Medical Missions of Memphis. Heather Thomas from California developed a rehab tech program in Haiti that includes OT courses. This program started in June 2012 and is helping the profession become more globally connected.
- Ingrid Provident from Pennsylvania performed a mission trip to Tanzania, Africa, and consulted with occupational therapists there on professional development and intervention. She is working toward a globally connected workforce and plans to return to Africa in 2013 with students to further connect OTs in the summer of 2013.
- Yvonne Randall, the RA speaker, is involved in work for Nigeria and the Dominican Republic.
- Moses Ikiugu from South Dakota collaborated with colleagues in Japan, the United Kingdom, and South Africa to develop a position paper related to issues of environmental sustainability in occupational therapy curricula for the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT).
- Anne Jenkins, who represents the OTs in Foreign Countries (OTFC), attended the WFOT council meeting in Taiwan in 2012. She regularly shares her work as an occupational therapist and the role of OT that is globally connected to other OTs, OT students, and community groups. Florence Clark, AOTA president, attended the Council of Occupational Therapists for the European Countries (COTEC) Congress in Stockholm.
- Penny Rogers from Mississippi indicated she regularly attends conferences and meetings to speak to occupational therapy practitioners about networking globally and nationwide. She states, "I have made it a point to impress upon our colleagues the urgency of being a strong contributing member of our organization and society. We must stay in touch with societal needs."
- Jennifer Wolfe, the alternate rep from Iowa, along with several others, have started Facebook pages to engage members in a more globally focused way.
Building a well prepared and diverse workforce is one of the four strategic directions of the Centennial Vision (AOTA 2006). Here are some examples of how members of the RA are involved in preparing OTs and OTAs for the 21st century as well as ensuring an adequate and diverse workforce for multiple roles.
- The Arizona representative, Chris Merchant, is part of a state legislative committee monitoring the activities of the Arizona legislature to ensure that OT is represented whenever relevant legislation is introduced. When appropriate, the committee and other Arizona members take action to introduce legislation as necessary to increase or protect scope of practice, and/or advocate for consumers of OT services.
- Gloria Lucker, the former nominating chairperson, works to ensure that occupational therapy practice includes occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) in New York. As noted previously, the diversity of our profession relies on the multiple levels of education for professionals who are able to provide services.
Meeting Society's Occupational Needs
All of the work that occupational therapy practitioners do in daily practice, in legislative reform, and in community initiatives helps to meet society's occupational needs.
- The AOTA president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer, and the RA speaker, conduct Capitol Hill visits when at the national office for meetings. The meetings that are held with state senators and representatives promote the need for occupational therapy and appropriate legislation to support our services and our clients' needs.
- CarFit initiatives are a focus for Luella Grangaard, the California representative. As a result of her initiative, CarFit events received great PR, both in print and on television. This initiative is part of the long-range plan for creating a community driving program to help meet society's occupational needs.
- The work that Chris Merchant (Arizona) is doing with state agencies includes ensuring recognition of the role of OT, including OT in programs and agencies that provide funding for potential consumers of OT, and facilitating access to OT services for those who need them.
The leadership of the Representative Assembly continues to promote the CV in its efforts, both collectively and individually. The information presented here shows just a glimpse of how the representatives and elected RA leaders embody the CV in their individual geographic regions and their personal occupational therapy journeys. We hope that these ideas spur AOTA members to support the CV through their own efforts! Please share your own experiences on the Leadership forum on OT Connections.
Mary Frances Baxter, PhD, OT, FAOTA, is an associate professor at Texas Woman's University (TWU), School of Occupational Therapy, Department of Health Sciences, in Houston, TX. Dr. Baxter earned her doctorate in kinesiology from the University of Houston, an MA in occupational therapy with emphasis on rehabilitation technology from TWU, and her bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from Colorado State University. She has a long history of service to the profession, including 9 years on the Representative Assembly and the recent past Vice Speaker. Her service to the profession has been recognized with the Fellowship in the American Occupational Therapy Association and the Texas OT Association's Roster of Merit.
Yvonne M. Randall, EdD, OTR/L, FAOTA, is the director for the School of Occupational Therapy at Touro University in Nevada. Dr. Randall is the current Speaker of the Representative Assembly and has served in the RA for more than 15 years. Dr. Randall has also served as the President of the Nevada Occupational Therapy Association. Her doctoral degree in Special Education was completed at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dr. Randall also has a master's degree in Healthcare Administration and a bachelor of science in occupational therapy.