Note: In 2011, AOTA identified re-entry as an emerging niche in occupational therapy education. It has since become more mainstream, so newer content appears elsewhere on our site. This page has been retained for historical information. Learn more about the 2011 Emerging Niche series here.
Why emerging? The profession of occupational therapy has recently appeared on many "best of" career lists, such as a booming job with big opportunities, best-paying and fastest-growing job for women, a recession-proof job, and a best career.1 With the increased attention to occupational therapy as a secure career and the growing number of jobs available some practitioners are re-entering the profession after time off work.
Get Involved! When the Minnesota licensure board approached St. Catherine University OTA Program director Marianne Christiansen, MA, OTR/L, FAOTA, about creating a refresher course for occupational therapy assistants wanting to re-enter the profession, it was something her program had already been thinking about creating. Occupational therapy practitioners in Minnesota who let their license lapse for more than 4 years either has to take the NBCOT exam again, take a refresher course, or do supervised hours. The state had no OTA refresher course, so Christiansen developed one in partnership with the OTA program at ANOKA Technical College.
The refresher course consists of six online modules and one face-to-face weekend session to meet the Department of Health's (DOH's) requirement of having some face-to-face instruction. At the end of the course participants receive a certificate of completion, which the Minnesota licensure board approves for re-entry. "We worked with the DOH and developed objectives, content, and technical support, and they approved us," says Christiansen. Despite the Minnesota focus, Christiansen found that practitioners from across the country are interested in completing her OTA refresher course. "Some haven't lost their certification or licensure but they want to change their practice or they just want 'refresh,'" she says. "They can take just one of the modules, or all of them, but they have to check with their own state regulatory board for approval."
Educators who want to start a similar program should first determine whether it is something that people in their state need, and then work with the licensure board to make sure the course meets its requirements, says Christiansen. She says that the participants in her program are really excited about getting back in the profession. "They stepped out of occupational therapy for various reasons—some said the jobs weren't there and others were focusing on their families—but now they are seeing the need and seeing the jobs and are very interested in coming back to a profession they know," she adds. OTAs who finished the refresher course reported that it gave them the knowledge and excitement of a new graduate, but they are coming back to the field as an experienced OTA. "This is a unique program," says Christiansen. "I am very proud of it."
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