Date Presented 03/31/2022

This study examines the transformation of OT generalists into experts in the provision of Assistive Technology Services (ATS). It sheds light on the adaptive strategies that OTs adopt while overcoming occupational and environmental barriers in the workplace and seeking to gain expertise. It also has recommendations from the experts in the field to better prepare entry-level OTs to provide ATS in the current climate.

Primary Author and Speaker: Katherine Selby McDowell

Additional Authors and Speakers: Karen Aranha

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this investigation was to fill an existing gap in knowledge of the transformation of OT generalists to experts in the provision of ATS. Previous studies report occupational therapists, and other ATS providers, are hesitant to administer ATS due to feelings of incompetency, lack of support, and difficulty keeping up with the ever-evolving world of high-tech devices despite its presence in their professional scope. Few OTs develop the expertise and feel successful in the delivery of ATS. Understanding how OTs develop the expertise and feel successful in the delivery of ATS is valuable knowledge for entry level therapists who seek to gain this expertise. Such knowledge is also beneficial for academic programs who include ATS in the OT curriculum with the goal of better preparing entry level OTs. The underpinnings of the Occupational Adaptive theoretical framework provided insight and guided this study in understanding the adaptive reponses OTs engaged in as participants related thie expereinces in the delivery of ATS.

METHODOLOGY: A qualitative phenomenological study (N = 8) using semi structured interviews was conducted. Inclusion criteria included OT practitioners (OTRs and COTAs) who are licensed in the state of Texas, possessed a minimum of 2 years work experience and whose caseload consists of 40%-75% of clients that required high tech ATS. Exclusion criteria included non-OT practitioners, those not licensed and practicing in Texas, those with less than 2 years work experience, and those who have a caseload of less than 40% or greater than 75% of clients that required ATS. Data analysis consisted of open line coding, memoing, fracturing the data and looking for emerging themes.

RESULTS: Despite occupational challenges, OTs in ATS strived for mastery. Themes that emerged included: peer reliance, workplace supports, factors contributing to mastery, and persistence for optimal client outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: Knowledge generated from this study sheds light on the adaptive capacity of OTs in the field of ATS who strive to meet work demands and be client centered. OTs interested in ATS need to seek peer support and workplace support to enhance their skill set and expertise to overcome the occupational challenges inherent in a system that is fast evolving. Offering ATS electives would help OT programs be more effective in preparing entry level therapists’ transition to work in the field of ATS.  


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