Date Presented 04/21/2023

A survey study was conducted to identify supports and barriers in the academic environment among Black students in entry-level OT and OTA programs. The results of this survey can provide suggestions to foster diverse and inclusive learning spaces.

Primary Author and Speaker: Riqiea Kitchens

Contributing Authors: Amber B. Armstead, Lima Ghulmi, Karthik Mani, Diane Collins

PURPOSE: To share survey results that explored the academic experiences of Black students in entry-level OT and OTA programs. The survey aimed to identify supports and barriers in the educational process. The results will inform recommendations for implementing practical and relevant strategies to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in OT and OTA programs.

DESIGN: A survey research design was used.

METHOD: Individuals who self-identified as Black/African-American and were enrolled in an entry-level OT or OTA program in the US between January 1, 2017- December 31, 2020 were recruited to participate in the study. Recruitment information was shared with 200 accredited OT and OTA programs and professional OT organizations that have student membership. Eligible participants completed a survey that containing forty-one items focused on the students’ experiences in the classroom, in their OT/OTA program, with their peers and instructors, and fieldwork.

RESULTS: 124 responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Location, cost, and school reputation were the top factors influencing OT/OTA program choice. Respondents also indicated it was of high importance to feel supported by the faculty, utilize diverse learning materials, have fieldwork experiences in a supportive learning environment, and to feel comfortable asking questions to clinical instructors. A lack of awareness of, and access to the OT profession, as well as discrimination were listed as barriers in the educational experience.

CONCLUSION: The results of this study offer OT and OTA programs information to identify opportunities to recruit and retain Black/African-American students and recommendations to foster safe and inclusive learning environments.

IMPACT: This study provides insight into factors that affect the student learning experience and informs OT and OTA programs on potential strengths and improvements needed to create supportive learning experiences for the next generation of OT practitioners.


Kitchens, R. F., Armstead, A. B., Mani, K., Ghulmi, L., & Collins, D. M. (2022). Exploring the Experiences of Black/African American Students in Entry Level Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapy Assistant Programs: A Survey Study. Journal of Occupational Therapy Education, 6 (2).

Ford, A. R., Smith, D. L., & Banister, G. E. (2021). Recruitment and retention of occupational therapy practitioners and students of color: A qualitative study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 75, 7501205150.