Importance: Matching the demographics of health professionals and patient populations increases access to quality care. However, a consensus has not been reached regarding the most effective strategies for recruitment and retention of diverse practitioners.
Objective: To answer the question “What are the perceived challenges to and facilitators of the recruitment and retention of occupational therapy practitioners (OTPs) and students of color?”
Design: A qualitative interpretive, constructionist design was used. Purposive recruitment that used convenience sampling was conducted at the 2017 American Occupational Therapy Association Annual Conference & Expo and via the National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus Facebook group. Data were collected online from three focus groups and four interviews.
Setting: Online through social media.
Participants: The total sample included 5 OTPs and 7 students; 91.7% identified as African-American or Black.
Outcomes and Measures: Inductive analysis was used to interpret the open-ended questions. After transcription, each interview or focus group transcript was reviewed with Colaizzi’s seven-step method of data analysis.
Results: Five themes were identified: (1) lack of representation in and knowledge about occupational therapy, (2) feeling like an outsider, (3) need for financial support, (4) individualized mentor–mentee relationships, and (5) connections with national organizations specifically for people of color.
Conclusions and Relevance: This study identified experiences of OTPs and students of color and how identified barriers can be addressed. Implications for the profession include purposive recruitment, professional development for faculty, provision of mentoring, and financial support. Future research should focus on creation and evaluation of evidence-based strategies for the recruitment and retention of students of color in occupational therapy.
What This Article Adds: This study provided voices of OTPs and students of color regarding challenges and facilitators experienced in the profession. With an accurate understanding of experiences of people of color, effective strategies can be developed to foster their successful transition into the occupational therapy workforce.