Occupational therapy advocacy is key to the growth and sustainability of our profession. Clients constantly question the difference of occupational therapy compared to physical therapy, and why they must participate if they “have not worked in a job in years.”
With this confusion, our profession has been able to explain and elaborate on the roles that these two health care professions provide. Little did we know that this is just one step in the avocation process that we would need to take as OTs. Medicare and Medicaid laws are frequently changing, and can be difficult to interpret. Let’s discuss how we can be an advocate and stay involved while having a work life balance.
What is advocacy in occupational therapy?
Advocacy in occupational therapy is the act of promoting the OT profession, sharing information about important legislature, and helping patients receive the support that they need. Avocation is seen in many formats, from speaking to legislators to a simple post on social media!
How do I advocate for occupational therapy profession?
Here are eight examples of advocacy in occupational therapy
1️⃣. Make connections
Connections in the advocation process are key, as you learn more, can teach more, and reach a larger population of people by being involved with as many people as possible. One way to do this is reaching out to fellow OTs!
- Have any of your friends, colleagues, or supervisors taken part in the advocation process?
- Are there people you know that would be directly affected by with new act?
- Do you know anyone in your state or local government?
It is beneficial to know or talk with someone in the bill making process as well, in order to get more information about how you can help. You can also reach out to people online. Lots of social media pages are run by knowledgeable individuals who are always happy to help; they might have some more tools or tips that you have not thought of!
This was a super important step when I started advocating for the OT Licensure Compact Act, where OTs would be able to cross state borders and practice in the compact states with only one license. I reached out to many different people in order to find out as much information as I could, and began to make a bigger impact than I expected! I reached out to social media pages, asked OT professors for advice, and even reached out to AOTA and my state OT association.
Connections in the advocation process are key, as you learn more, can teach more, and reach a larger population of people. Simply starting a conversation about the bill turns into an opportunity to educate and advocate!
2️⃣. Stay up to date
Involve educating oneself in keeping up with the news articles which can be a daunting task and can have misinformation that can be misinterpreted.
As a healthcare provider, we must be aware of the new legislature to properly advocate for our clients (remember when PDMP was rolling in?). Keeping up with the news articles which can be a daunting task and can have misinformation that can be misinterpreted. However, there are resources everywhere that are made to help us learn about bills being introduced and the laws that are constantly changing such as:
- social media pages all can share the information you need to succeed!
The important part is finding a bill that you are passionate about that affects your clients. Podcasts such as The Amplify OT Podcast are an informative way to stay in the know, especially on the go! You can listen to them in the car on your way to and from work or even while you’re getting ready in the morning. The Amplify OT Podcast not only informs you of different acts that are introduced, but also the different ways you can get involved like Episode 17: Advocacy Initiatives for 2022.
For those looking into digging even deeper into how reimbursement, Medicare and OT policy affects our everyday practice as an OT practitioner and how we can advocate for ourselves in everyday practice, as well as for getting what our patient’s need and deserve, Amplify OT has a great occupational therapy advocacy course to empower and help you level up ⬇️!
AOTA also does a great job keeping us informed about different policies too. There are a multitude of social media pages on both Facebook and Twitter made just for OTs to keep up with ever changing information too!
3️⃣. AOTA and state associations
AOTA and many state associations not only keeps us up to date with applicable acts and laws, but they also give us more information on how to advocate! There are a few different articles and resources that AOTA provides, and the Everyday Advocacy Decision Guide is an educational resource that needs to be highlighted. This guide is available both as a webpage as well as in PDF format, and discusses ways to build in the advocation process into every day.
There are also ways to contact policy-focused individuals through your AOTA advocacy efforts such as:
- AOTA’s Federal Affairs Department: FAD@aota.org
- AOTA’s Regulatory Affairs Department: Regulatory@aota.org
- AOTA’s State Affairs Department: STPD@aota.org.
State OT associations are also super willing to discuss policies and ways that we as OTPs can make a difference! For example, I contacted Pennsylvania OT association to discuss the Licensure Compact Act, since it was introduced last year to the state government. I spoke with the President of POTA, Chrissy Daeschner, and their Social Media Chair, Tiffany Gaydosh. We co-created a Facebook post for their account, and I was able to learn even more about how POTA helps advocate for our profession as well!
4️⃣. Social media shares
If you see other posts about bills important to occupational therapy advocacy or just OT in general, feel free to give it a share! You never know who you may reach through social media so the impact can be even bigger than you may think!
One creative way that I shared more information about the OT Compact Act is through social media! I teamed up with the social media manager with the POTA and created an infographic on Facebook that they posted! I even shared it on my Facebook page as well as other OTs throughout Pennsylvania! Infographics or posts in general help share the conversation about the bill that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to have! If you see other posts about bills important to OT or just OT in general, feel free to give it a share! You never know who you may reach through social media so the impact can be even bigger than you may think!
Graphics like this ⬇️ was shared on social media and was as great way to get the word out!
5️⃣. Online petitions
Going along with the social media post, throw in an online petition! You can use websites such as change.org to support a bill, but it can also be as easy as creating a Google Doc with a table for people to sign their names and is a great piece to support your bill in a meeting or to share with your representatives.
It can be sent out through email, text, or shared on any social media page to help support your cause! This graphic on the OT Licensure Compact Act above may be a great piece to support your bill in a meeting with your representatives!
6️⃣. Vote 🗳️
Another way to use your voice: Vote!
Be sure to review your representatives and what they support, so you can be sure your vote is the representative of your bill and values.
Use your voice in areas that affect your occupational therapy practice and patients that you support and/or oppose!
7️⃣. Representatives and Legislators
AOTA and many OT state associations and organizations will even have templates that you can use to share with your representative. This makes it a no-brainer if you want to be a part of the movement, but don’t know where to start. This can be a daunting task for some, but don’t worry!
As long as you’re prepared, representatives and legislators are more than happy to talk with you. You can call their office and schedule a meeting, or send them an occupational therapy advocacy letter or email discussing an important bill. It’s even better if you can advocate for them to sponsor and support the bill. A fact sheet with important information about the bill (including the sponsors), benefits, and impacts, is super helpful too when you are working on occupational therapy advocacy!
To find your representatives, type in your address at CommonCause.org. I am sharing how easy it is to do this in this quick video below ⬇️
8️⃣. Continue the conversation through repetitive action
This step is key! It is important to continue advocating for your bill as much as you can, whether that’s continuing to reach out to your legislators and representatives, sharing an infographic on social media, or trying another way listed above.
Advocating for OT is a nonstop process that requires lots of repetition and different ways to complete. Use these occupational therapy advocacy ideas to help you navigate the avocation process.
About the author:
Aliana Hondorf, a current Master’s OT student at Keuka College, recently completed her Policy and Advocacy course semester where she learned about the OT Compact Act, and became very passionate about advocating and making a bigger difference.
I have met with my area’s representative to discuss Pennsylvania’s act, spoken with the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association’s president; Chrissy Daeschner; reached out to AOTA, and created my own social media campaign. I co-created an infographic with the POTA Facebook page, and reached out to OT Flourish to create an infographic and blog post to further my avocation efforts. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions that I may be able to answer!