Joint Commission Grants Occupational Therapy Seats for Setting Standards


By Stephanie Yamkovenko

Due to an AOTA initiative, occupational therapy will have a representative on five professional and technical advisory committees (PTACs) of the Joint Commission. The commission is the oldest and largest accrediting body in the U.S., with 20,000 accredited organizations.

“In many settings, the Joint Commission has as much influence as regulations or payer requirements,” says Carol Siebert, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA. “It is essential that AOTA have input to the standards setting process, since these standards ultimately have an impact on occupational therapy practice in Joint Commission accredited settings.”

For nearly 2 decades, AOTA participated with the Joint Commission as a member of the Coalition of Rehab Therapy Organizations (CRTO), which gave a shared voice to the commission among six therapy organizations. “The positive of the shared voice was that we met regularly between our associations—which was nice,” says Elin Schold Davis, OTR/L, CDRS, project coordinator for AOTA. “The negative was that the shared voice limited the visibility of our distinct voices, and we couldn’t really have different opinions. Logistically it was difficult for us to review materials and have enough time to effectively connect with the other associations in preparation for the meetings.”

Siebert also notes that it was difficult for occupational therapy’s perspective and voice to be heard on the issues before the PTACs.

AOTA initiated a conversation with the CRTO organizations about requesting that the commission dissolve the group and allow therapy associations their own voice on the committees. “AOTA met with the Joint Commission for the past 2 years to plant the seed, understand the history of CRTO, and explore our options,” says Schold Davis.

Early this year, AOTA worked with the CRTO members to submit a formal request to dissolve the CRTO and request individual seats. The Joint Commission granted that request and honored AOTA’s request for membership on each of the five PTACs requested—hospital, ambulatory care, behavioral health care, home care, and nursing and rehabilitation center.

“The exciting part is that we have an opportunity to have an AOTA seat on each of the five PTACs, but now we need more volunteers!” says Schold Davis. Each term for a PTAC office is 2 years, and members can serve in a position for up to three terms (or 6 years). The responsibilities of the office include advising and making recommendations about new or revised standards, articulating opinions that reflect the positions of AOTA, attending and participating in PTAC meetings, and more.

“Representing AOTA on the Hospital PTAC has been an exceptional professional experience for me,” says Letty Sargant, MS, OTR/L. “The ability to contribute to this process assures that OT practice is represented in all accreditation standards. My membership on the Hospital PTAC has expanded my knowledge and skills in quality improvement and has contributed to improved quality, safety, and outcomes of care provided to the patients served in my organization.”

AOTA is looking to form a new advisory group. Members of that group will contribute feedback by reviewing standards out for review and acting as advisors to the representatives. “The responsibilities would be infrequent, but when there’s a need we need to be able to find the right people,” says Schold Davis. If you would like to participate in the advisory group, fill out your volunteer profile in AOTA’s COOL database or send an e-mail to If you’d like to be considered for a PTAC office or want more information, contact Schold Davis at

“This change creates the opportunity for an occupational therapy practitioner to be nominated to serve as vice chair or chair of a given PTAC, expanding the role and the voice of occupational therapy in Joint Commission processes,” says Siebert. Siebert has served as CRTO representative on the homecare PTAC since 2008 and serves on the Standards and Survey Procedures Committee (SSP).

By discussing and requesting this change, Schold Davis believes that the Joint Commission realized that therapy associations represent a wide range of professionals and provide diverse perspectives geographically and from different contexts and settings.

“This change is important to occupational therapy because it allows occupational therapy concerns, interests, and expertise to directly inform the processes for developing and reviewing standards,” says Siebert. “This change gives OT and AOTA an equal footing among the various professional and trade associations and regulatory entities which comprise each of the PTACs.”

Stephanie Yamkovenko is AOTA’s Web editor.