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Developing Occupational Therapy Managers Today, Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders

Stephanie Yamkovenko
1/31/2014

Occupational therapy practitioners who work as managers seem to have a common complaint—they don’t get to talk to other occupational therapy practitioners in management because they are so consumed with their day-to-day jobs.

The participants in the managers programPrograms like AOTA’s Cultivating Your Power & Influence: The AOTA Leadership Development Program for Managers brings together a talented group of managers and gives them the tools to become more effective leaders.

In January, 17 managers met at AOTA Headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, for 3 days of leadership training. They were selected from a pool of 68 applicants who had expressed an interest in furthering their management and leadership potential. This was the third cohort of managers to participate in the program.

“I feel like I don’t get a lot of opportunities to talk to other occupational therapy practitioners in management,” says participant Michelle McCann, OTR/L, CBIS, C/NDT, Therapy Manager at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Sewickley, Pittsburgh, PA. “So this is a tremendous program.”

Not only are participants given the opportunity to meet and learn from each other, but the program also helps them increase their leadership and management skills, think strategically, and create a community of leaders, among other outcomes, which will assist in helping occupational therapy meet its Centennial Vision objective of building the profession’s capacity to influence and lead.

Participant talks with AOTA President, Ginny Stoffel“It’s really important that occupational therapy practitioners are in leadership positions,” says participant Dawn Frese, OTR, MLD-CDT, Rehabilitation Manager at Lakeland Healthcare, Niles, MI. “It’s wonderful that AOTA is dedicating resources to empower leaders and to facilitate growth.”

The training program featured lessons on leadership, management, strategic planning, power and confidence, and other topics presented by AOTA leaders and staff, including AOTA President Ginny Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA; AOTA Vice President Amy Lamb, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA; Nancy Stanford-Blair, PhD; Rebecca Durham Reder, OTD, OTR/L, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Senior Clinical Director; Christina Metzler, AOTA Chief Public Affairs Officer; and Maureen Freda Peterson, MS, OT/L, FAOTA, AOTA Chief Professional Affairs Officer.

AOTA Board Director Shawn Phipps, PhD, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, led a session about power and confidence. Phipps says that in his experience occupational therapy practitioners sometimes shy away from the concept of power. “When we say power, we mean the power to influence and lead the profession,” Phipps explains. “We want them to be bold and take risks.”

After meeting the participants in the program, Phipps knew immediately that they would embrace the concept of power with no problem. “This is an outstanding group of participants—I really feel like they are ready for the next step.”

In addition to presentations, the participants also completed structured interactions with each other and had time for valuable introspection. “At work it’s always run, run, run,” says participant Maija West, OTR, MPA, Director Rehabilitation at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Green Bay, WI. “It’s a time to slow down. This program gives us the ability to take a moment to look at our own leadership and to do some strategic thinking.”

Reception for participants to meet AOTA staffSimilar to last year’s program, AOTA selected participants with a wide range of backgrounds and years of experience. One of the younger participants was really grateful for that. “I feel privileged to be a part of this group,” says participant Stephanie Sinsabaugh, MS, OTR/L, Director of Therapy at Eldenwood at Waverly, Waverly, NY. “I am one of the youngest with just 5 to 6 years’ experience and here I am standing next to AOTA Board of Directors and even the other participants. It’s a great opportunity for me.”

Ultimately, learning about leadership can be as simple as listening to the stories of other leaders. “It’s awesome to hear stories from the other participants about how they’ve grown as leaders,” says participant Kristen Komorek, OTR/L, Regional Rehab Manager at Manor Care, Toledo, OH. “It’s amazing the things people have done.”

AOTA’s Leadership Development Program for Managers Participants:

  • Maria Barefield, MS, OTR/L, Assistant Chief Occupational Therapy Service at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD
  • Marie Danglovitch, OTR/L, Facility Coordinator/Occupational Therapist at Hanover Hospital Thistle Hill Rehab, Spring Grove, PA
  • Dawn Frese, OTR, MLD-CDT, Rehabilitation Manager at Lakeland Healthcare, Niles, MI
  • Corinne Hoffman, OTR/L, Regional Director of Operations at Solaris Rehabilitation, Coral Springs, FL
  • Emilee Johnson, OTE/L, CHT, Director of Rehabilitation at Maria Parhan Medical Center, Henderson, NC
  • Colleen Johnson, OT/L, MHCA, Director of Rehabilitation at Northfield Hospital & Clinics, Northfield, MN
  • Sarah Jones, MOT, CLT, Rehab Manager at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison, WI
  • Kristen Komorek, OTR/L, Regional Rehab Manager at Manor Care, Toledo, OH
  • Kristina Krsiak, MOTR/L, BS, Program Manager at Madison House, Madison, CT
  • Michelle McCann, OTR/L, CBIS, C/NDT, Therapy Manager at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Sewickley, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Elizabeth McQuaid, MS, OTR/L, MSED, Supervisor of Special Services PreK-12 at West Milford Board of Education, West Milford, NJ
  • Rebecca Piazza, OTR/L, Clinical Coordinator at UF Health Shands Rehabilitation Hospital, Gainesville, FL
  • Holly Russell, MS, OTR/L, Neuroscience Team Coordinator at the John Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD
  • Stephanie Sinsabaugh, MS, OTR/L, Director of Therapy at Eldenwood at Waverly, Waverly, NY
  • Marlene Snow, OTR/L, Manager low vision clinic at New View Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, OK
  • Tara Termezy, OTR/L, OT Inpatient Clinical Specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
  • Maija West, OTR, MPA, Director Rehabilitation at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Green Bay, WI

 Stephanie Yamkovenko is AOTA's web editor.