“The occupational therapy profession affirms the right of every individual to access and fully participate in society.” (AOTA 2014b). Likewise, James Madison University is committed to providing access and equal opportunity for all students. The Occupational Therapy Program strives to educate an excellent and diverse group of students including otherwise qualified students with disabilities. These technical standards are provided to assist applicants with making informed decisions regarding a career in occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy is a holistic profession that requires practitioners to acquire and employ a wide variety of knowledge and skills in order to safely and effectively participate within their roles. Occupational therapists evaluate and implement interventions to enhance the performance and engagement of individuals, groups, and populations in occupations, including activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, education, work, play, and leisure. These technical standards were developed in alignment with the general responsibilities for occupational therapists articulated by the American Occupational Therapy Association. The document states that “…the occupational therapist is responsible for all aspects of occupational therapy service delivery and is accountable for the safety and effectiveness of the occupational therapy service delivery process… this includes evaluation, intervention planning, implementation, and review; and targeting and evaluating outcomes, regardless of the practice setting in which the occupational therapy services are delivered (AOTA 2014a).
Occupational therapists must demonstrate expertise in the knowledge of occupation, its role in health and well-being, and its use in therapy. Occupational therapy practice requires practitioners to exercise increasingly complex, autonomous decision-making and problem-solving skills. As critical thinkers, they must be capable of evaluating and synthesizing often ambiguous and conflicting information about a wide range of phenomena from various sources. Likewise, as reflective practitioners, they must be able to evaluate their own clinical reasoning and serve from a client-centered perspective. Finally, practitioners must possess excellent communication skills to ably serve on intra- and inter-professional teams of professionals in a variety of established practice settings, including homes, community mental health centers, hospitals, schools, extended care facilities, outpatient centers, physician offices, private practices, and to establish practice in new settings.
The James Madison University Occupational Therapy Program (OT) strives to select diverse applicants who have the potential to become competent, client-centered, occupational therapists. The accredited Master of Occupational Therapy program adheres to the current accreditation standards for occupational therapy education. The preamble of the 2018 accreditation standards for occupational therapy education states, “[t]he dynamic nature of contemporary health and human services delivery systems requires the occupational therapist to possess basic skills as a direct care provider, consultant, educator, manager, leader, researcher, and advocate for the profession and the consumer,” (Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education [ACOTE], 2018, p. 1). Within these guidelines, the OT Program has the responsibility for selecting and evaluating its students; designing, implementing, and evaluating its curriculum; and determining who should be awarded a degree. Likewise, the OT Program has a responsibility to the public that its graduates are competent and caring entry-level occupational therapists, capable of doing work that benefits and does not harm their clients.
It is important that students admitted to our graduate program possess the intelligence, integrity, compassion, humanitarian concern, and physical and emotional capacity necessary to practice occupational therapy in a variety of settings. Admission and retention decisions are based on multiple factors including satisfactory academic achievement, as well as the candidate’s ability to demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes for graduation and initial certification by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
In order to successfully complete the Master of Occupational Therapy Program and thereby be prepared to enter practice as an occupational therapist, OT students must be able to meet all technical standards with or without the use of accommodations.
Communication: Prospective and current students must possess communication skills that allow them to:
- Communicate effectively and respectfully with people verbally and nonverbally, in writing, and within a variety of electronic and virtual formats.
- Accurately perceive verbal and nonverbal communications from others within a variety of academic, community, educational, and clinical environments.
- Communicate sensitively and flexibly with others, taking into consideration development, cultural values, and diverse abilities of communication partner(s).
- Be proficient in written and spoken English.
- Adequately convey written information to meet curricular, clinical, and scholarly demands including but not limited to clinical documentation evaluation/outcome data, and written reports.
- Access and comprehend information from images, electronic and written materials to meet academic and clinical demands, including but not limited to academic resources, medical records, standardized assessments, and clinical reports.
Cognition: Prospective and current students must use cognitive skills to
- Demonstrate effective critical thinking skills in order to safely and effectively direct the occupational process.
- Identify salient information, recognize patterns and deviations from patterns in order to effectively recognize, define and address clinical problems.
- Comprehend, retain, recall, integrate, assimilate, infer, analyze, evaluate, and apply information from diverse sources of information in order to conduct all steps of the OT process.
- Generate discipline-specific documents, clinical reports, and scholarly works
- Critically analyze and apply data from written scenarios and live encounters into evaluation and intervention processes
- Evaluate safety, create and maintain safe environments during performance of occupations, activities, and tasks, anticipate potential risks and safety hazards in discharge (future) environments, and design strategies to minimize potential for harm.
- Take initiative to flexibly, effectively, and efficiently solve problems
- Demonstrate self-awareness in order to monitor and evaluate one’s own knowledge and skills
Social, Emotional, Behavioral and Self-regulation Skills:Prospective and current students must use social, emotional, behavioral and self-regulationskills to
- Demonstrate one’s composure in noisy, malodorous, or visually complex, emotionally charged, and intense situations to maintain a safe and therapeutic environment.
- Demonstrate self-care and personal hygiene routines.
- Demonstrate awareness of, and attend and respond to the needs of others effectively, compassionately and respectfully in order to establish and maintain therapeutic relationships with clients.
- Communicate professionally with colleagues, the general public, payers, and policy makers.
- Demonstrate the flexibility and adaptability within dynamic clinical, professional, and academic contexts.
- Manage time effectively in order to complete professional and technical responsibilities within time constraints.
- Demonstrate personal and professional integrity as well as commitment to uphold professional ethics and codes of conduct that protect clients and the public
Ethical Behavior and Adherence to Professional Codes of Conduct:Prospective and current students must
- Adhere to professional codes of conduct and codes of ethics set forth by professional associations such as the American Occupational Therapy Association, NBCOT, and state regulatory boards.
- Comply with university, graduate school, and program-specific administrative, legal, and regulatory policies and procedures
Prospective and current occupational therapy students must be able to
- Access data from diagnostic instruments, standardized assessments, and evaluations (may be clinical observations, text, numbers, tables, graphs, images)
- Use vision, auditory, and/or tactile information to identify anatomical structures and functions on humans, anatomical models, and environmental features.
- Observe clients and peers in order to assess health status and to perform OT evaluation and intervention processes.
- Demonstrate sufficient postural control, neuromuscular function, strength, coordination and endurance to perform occupational therapy evaluations and interventions accurately, safely, and effectively in classroom, community, and clinical environments during a full work day. This includes fine and gross motor functions needed to safely operate equipment, position clients for treatment, and demonstrate desired actions for educational purposes.
- Respond to requests for help and emergency codes in a timely manner and to perform procedures such as CPR when required.
- Safely navigate academic, clinical, and community environments. This includes the ability to maneuver in small places while safely guiding clients and their assistive devices when necessary.
- Demonstrate sufficient fine motor function to produce legible and accurate documentation of reports, charting, scheduling, daily correspondence, and presentations as well as design and fabricate assistive technology such as orthotics.
James Madison University and the OT Program will provide reasonable accommodations to otherwise qualified students with properly documented disabilities who meet the minimum OT Program requirements. Reasonable accommodations will be provided as needed to facilitate a student’s progress in learning, performing, and satisfying the essential functions presented in this document.
Students who seek to obtain an accommodation or determine their eligibility for one should contact James Madison University’s Office of Disability Services. They can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phoning (540) 568-6705 (Voice/TDD), (540) 568-7099 (FAX). Additional information can be found on their website at https://www.jmu.edu/ods/.
- AOTA (2016). Ethical considerations for the professional education of students with disabilities. obtained from https://www.aota.org/~/media/Corporate/Files/Practice/Ethics/Advisory/Ethical-Considerations-for-the-Professional-Education-of-Students-With-Disabilities.pdf
- AOTA (2014a). Guidelines for supervision, roles, and responsibilities during the delivery of occupational therapy services. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68 (S3), s16-s22.
- AOTA (2014b). Occupational therapy’s commitment to nondiscrimination and inclusion. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68 (S3), s23- s24.