Walters State’s occupational therapy assistant program is celebrating two major milestones: the first graduates and accreditation.
The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has approved accreditation for the program subject to a site visit. This means that the nine members of the first class will be eligible to sit for the national occupational therapy assistant certification exam. This is required for practice.
“Accreditation by AOTA means our students are receiving a quality-based education and will be ready to serve the community upon graduation,” said Dr. Tony Miksa, president of Walters State.
“This program would not have received accreditation without the hard work and dedication of the occupational therapy assistant faculty and the leadership of the Division of Health Programs.”
Nine students graduated from the program in May and will take the certification test this summer. Several students were offered jobs during clinical rotations while others are waiting until after the test to take a job.
“We began the process of developing this program after learning of the need for skilled occupational therapy assistants in East Tennessee,” said Marty Rucker, dean of health programs.
“The shortage is expected to continue as the need for occupational therapy grows. This is also a natural fit for our health programs, as many of our clinical partners need occupational therapy assistants, (OTA),” Rucker said.
The occupational therapist assistant program is based at the Niswonger Campus in Greeneville and draws students from throughout Walters State’s service area.
The name of the profession can be misleading, according to program director Courtney Boren.
“Occupational therapy helps individuals learn or relearn skills centered around functional performance. It is not vocational therapy. In occupational therapy, occupation is defined as anything you do. OTAs could help you develop skills needed to make your breakfast or dress yourself,” Boren said.
OTAs work in hospitals, assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities, homes and schools. Many work with a variety of patients while others work with children, the elderly or in acute care.
“The profession provides a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that you are making a patient’s life better and improving the quality of life for the entire family,” Boren said.