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Creating the Vision-2006 Centennial Vision Retreat

AOTA's 2017 Centennial Vision - Creating Our Future

Envisioning clients' positive futures is an essential component of occupational therapy. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has tapped those skills to create a design for the profession's future. A vision for the centennial of the occupational therapy profession celebrating practice, education, science, and social responsibility has been put forward by AOTA's Board of Directors for approval by the Representative Assembly (RA) in April 2006.

Guiding the process has been the question, "What must the profession of occupational therapy do to best position itself for the world of 2017 and beyond?" The following draft vision statement represents the culmination of more than 18 months of deliberation:

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.

"This bold vision recognizes our potential as well as our past and takes the first step toward our next hundred years of service and knowledge development in occupation," said AOTA President Carolyn Baum, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA. "I am so proud that the profession has come together in this extensive dialogue to improve our ability to meet society's occupational needs and to bring the occupational therapy community together across the nation and the world."

"It was crucial to link changes in the outside world to what is going to happen in the profession of occupational therapy," said Fred Somers, AOTA Executive Director. "By linking these changes, we can put the profession in a position to achieve the maximum benefit for both practitioners and consumers."

As part of his responsibility for strategic planning, AOTA Vice President Charles H. Christiansen, EdD, OTR, OT(C) (at left), proposed a visioning process in 2003, which the Board supported. Since that time, AOTA has worked with leaders both inside and outside of the profession to develop four possible scenarios for the future:

  • FamiliarTerritory: An expected future, with enough opportunity for the profession to progress steadily
  • ScareCity: A feared future with limited opportunities for occupational therapy
  • Bold New Frontier: Scientific and technological advances could alter the practice of occupational therapy
  • Shining City on the Hill: A visionary future, where a more holistic view of health transforms occupational therapy

Throughout 2005, AOTA facilitated extensive dialogue among occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, educators, scientists, researchers, students, and service recipients. Several thousand people participated in the meetings and conferences, and more than 1,500 contributed specific written recommendations and viewpoints for the leadership.

In addition, all members and other stakeholders were encouraged to fill out a survey available through the AOTA Web site. Those who provided feedback cited "Shining City on the Hill" as their preferred future and identified 10 important drivers of professional change.

The process culminated with a visioning retreat in Potomac, Maryland, on January 19 and 20, 2006. The 75 attendees represented all of AOTA's component bodies: professional partners the American Occupational Therapy Foundation and the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy; special interest caucuses and networks; students; and a cross section of practitioners, educators, scientists, and AOTA staff.

Christiansen opened the retreat with this startling observation: "In the first 20 years of this century, we will see more change than occurred in the entire 20th century." Although change is inevitable, he asserted that the profession has the power to anticipate and react to those changes.

"Occupational therapy has changed so much in the last 20 years," said Meena Iyer, PhD, OTR/L, a member of the Association of Asia/Pacific Occupational Therapists in America. "It is important to address the needs of today, while attempting to project the future."

During the dynamic 2-day meeting, participants worked in large and small groups to identify elements that are relevant to a shared vision, recognize potential barriers to implementing a shared vision, and define four strategic directions for AOTA to support the proposed Centennial Vision.

The following eight elements were identified as relevant to a shared vision for the profession of occupational therapy:

  • Expanded collaboration for success
  • Power to influence
  • AOTA membership equaling professional responsibility
  • Well-prepared, diverse workforce
  • Clear, compelling public image
  • Customers who demand occupational therapy
  • Evidence-based decision making
  • Science-fostered innovation in occupational therapy practice.

The six barriers to achieving these elements were identified as:

  • Rigid adherence to the status quo
  • Misalignment between current occupational therapy priorities and the external environment
  • Limited appeal of membership in AOTA
  • Inconsistent competencies for education and practice
  • Overemphasis on a "helping culture" in the occupational therapy workforce
  • Unclear professional language and terminology

After a careful analysis of barriers and opportunities to achieving the preferred vision, the following strategic directions emerged:

1. Building the capacity to fulfill the profession's potential and mission. This includes:

  • Ensuring an adequate and diverse workforce for multiple roles
  • Preparing occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants for the 21st century
  • Increasing research capacity and productivity
  • Strengthening our capacity to influence and lead

2. Demonstrating and articulating our value to individuals, organizations, and communities.This includes:

  • Meeting societal needs for health and well-being
  • Having people understand who we are and what we do

3. Building an inclusive community of members

4. Linking education, research, and practice

The participants were overwhelmingly positive about the Visioning process. Linda Savino, MS, OTR/L, and chief executive officer of Healthsouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, commented, "Having a shared vision will increase opportunity for all occupational therapists. In turn, consumers will be positively impacted by the enhanced role of occupational therapy on the health care team."

LTC Stephanie Daugherty, MS, CHT, OTR/L, assistant chief of occupational therapy at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, said, "I am looking forward to seeing our vision accomplished over the next few years. I do believe Army OTs can be vital to the journey as the profession strives to meet its goals and obtain its vision."

AOTA members are encouraged to provide feedback on the draft vision to their RA representative before action by the 2006 RA meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, from April 25 to 28.

For background materials and more information on the visioning process, go to the Centennial Vision section of this site. If the proposed shared vision is approved by the RA, the Board and AOTA staff will develop a detailed action plan, guided by careful consideration of cost and impact.

"By drafting a vision statement, we are carving our own path," said Tim Wolf, an occupational therapy student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. "Today's OT students are tomorrow's practitioners and we will be implementing this vision."