An Exploratory Study of the Professional Beliefs and Practice Choices of Novice Occupational Therapy Assistants

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Title: An Exploratory Study of the Professional Beliefs and Practice Choices of Novice Occupational Therapy Assistants
Author: Amini, Deborah Ann
Advisors: Dr. Julia Storberg-Walker, Committee Member
Dr. Diane Chapman, Committee Member
Dr. Duane Akroyd, Committee Member
Dr. Tuere Bowles, Committee Chair
Abstract: The purpose of this basic interpretive qualitative study was to explore how novice occupational therapy assistants begin to understand their profession, form practice beliefs, and subsequently select and initiate certain treatment methods and approaches with clients. The primary source of data for this study was obtained via semi-structured interviews of 10 purposefully selected men and women novice occupational therapy assistants who each graduated from the same southeastern North Carolina community college in either 2008 or 2009. Participants ranged in age from 23-38 years and were employed as OTAs for between two weeks and 10 months. Secondary data obtained for this study included participant observations, document review, critical incident essays and observations of participant workplaces. The research questions that guided this study include: (a) How do novice OTAs understand and describe the profession of OT? (b) How do novice OTAs create their personal understanding of the profession of OT while in the clinical setting? (c) What environmental factors shape the practice choices of OTAs within the clinical setting? (d) How do novice occupational therapy assistants enact their professional belief within the clinical setting? Data were analyzed and interpreted using the constant comparative method that revealed the following: (a) OTAs define and describe the profession as embodying practitioners who have great care and concern for clients and use relationship building as a therapeutic tool; (b) novices have learned about their profession through interactions with clients and peers, their academic program, workshops and periodicals; (c) OTAs feel both supported and challenged in their practice by the work environment including managers, the organization and third party payers; and (d) the practice decisions made by novice OTAs are consistent with their espoused beliefs about the profession, despite the fact that they do not hold a belief consistent with the new professional paradigm of occupation-based practice. Three conclusions were drawn from the data: (a) novice OTAs posses two divergent professional identities that impact their espoused and enacted practice beliefs; (b) novice OTAs engage the process of OT in a linear and hierarchical manner that is not in keeping with the tenets of the profession, addressing client factors (e.g. strength, motion and endurance) prior to engaging clients in functional tasks; and (c) the practice of OT by novice OTAs is impacted by hegemonic environmental factors such as direct management, the organization and third party payers. The findings of this study have implications for theories of adult education, and the education and practice of occupational therapy. Recommendations include the suggestion that educational and national organizational activities promote reflexive practice of both novice and experienced clinicians in addition to the creation of an initiative to enhance OT based communities of practice within physical disabilities work places.
Date: 2010-04-28
Degree: EdD
Discipline: Adult and Community College Education

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