5 Ways to Focus the AOTA over the Next 5 Years

5 ways to focus the AOTA over the next 5 years

The AOTA elections ends today and our leadership will be set for the next year. So what next? 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to interview candidates about where they hope to see the AOTA in 5 years. The process has me thinking about, as a member, where I hope to see organization head. 

It is my belief that many large membership-based organizations will continue to find themselves in upheaval in the upcoming years. This is a good thing, because it means new competition has been introduced. Why spend $225+ for a membership, when I can easily connect with OTs on free blogs and forums, or when I can keep up on best practices and CEUs through awesome services like occupationaltherapy.com?

Like anyone else trying to get things done in a noisy, quickly changing world, the AOTA will need to be lean and focused. 

To begin the looking-ahead process, I asked myself two questions:

  1. What is the AOTA uniquely poised to accomplish that cannot be easily replicated on a smaller scale? 
  2. What compels my own membership?

I came up with four areas that answered both questions:

  • Promote a rigorous, forward looking research agenda
  • Influence policy
  • Provide authoritative, clear articulation of our value to policy makers and consumers
  • Empower individual practitioners with best practice tools and knowledge

These are not original. These 4 areas are all embedded in the AOTA Centennial Vision. Where I would like to see the organization head is toward an even more strict adherence to these areas, using them as a filter to strip away excess. 

I do not pretend to know everything about the AOTA, but I do try to follow OT trends very closely. Here are 5 specific ideas for increasing the value of the AOTA membership. I hope that they can serve as a starting point for discussion.

My 5 Ideas for Growing the AOTA 

1.) Yearly survey to AOTA members to ascertain what content they find most valuable and where they need more support. 

The AOTA exists for the members and nothing would highlight this so strongly as regularly collecting member feedback. 

2.) Phase out the OT Practice Magazine and send me an easy to read newsletter with the most important policy, research and best practice updates. 

I love print magazines as much as the next person, and I think that they will always have a nostalgic niche in information dissemination, but I don't think “nostalgic niche” is where we want to be investing valuable resources. I know there are people doing great work on the magazine, but I’m guessing lots of members are not taking the time to filter through the pages to find the nuggets that better their practice. Information dissemination is changing so rapidly in our culture. The amount of content available is overwhelming and I think what people will value most in the upcoming years is information that has been carefully filtered and curated. 

3.) Reinvest in AOTA website, starting with the “What is Occupational Therapy” landing page. 

Instead, let’s reinvest the resources where we know people will be; the AOTA website. One of the most popular searches about occupational therapy is simply “what is occupational therapy.” The top of the search list is the AOTA website, but the page is outdated. If we want to be communicating the value of our profession, we need to be putting information where people are looking for it. I love learning and thinking about marketing, so I have lots more thoughts about promoting OT, but this update is top of the list.   

4.) Switch focus from developing leaders to training researchers. 

It has been fun to watch the energy coming out of our emerging leader development program. But, I also think that leaders will naturally rise in organizations and that there are lots of options out there for developing your leadership capacity. Occupational therapy needs more people to be collecting data in their work, and this will not happen naturally. We need to be connecting people with studies they can participate in and training them on data gathering. 

5.) Talk to me about the entry level OT Doctorate, when you can show me that our curriculum necessitates it. 

Some may respond to the call for more researchers, with the call for the entry-level doctorate. I disagree. I am so glad that there are doctorate programs out there for people who want to pursue the research avenue, but you do not need a doctorate to help collect data. I think the pursuit of the entry level doctorate is a red herring. Almost every OT I have ever talked to has felt that their grad program had too much “fluff.” Let’s strengthen our profession, before we rush into this step.