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IU Occupational Therapy Program Gained 10-Year Reaccreditation


March 19, 2012

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The IU School of Health and Rehabilitation master’s level program for Occupational Therapy recently received what equates to a gold stand level of accreditation following an onsite review by a national accrediting agency in September.

The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) conducted the onsite review to determine the educational effectiveness of the Occupational Therapy program at IUPUI in meeting180 accreditation standards ACOTE set for master’s level programs.

ACOTE found the Occupational Therapy program was in compliance with all 180 standards. It notified the program it would not return to review the program again for 10 years, the longest period of time the agency sets between accreditation examinations. When there are compliance concerns, ACOTE will conduct a subsequent accreditation review in as little as five years.

The program’s accomplishment “is a big deal,” said Augustine Agho, Dean of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Ten years is the gold standard.”

Indiana University has been educating occupational therapists for more than 50 years. The program at IUPUI transitioned from a baccalaureate to a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program in 2005. It is the highest ranked Occupational Therapy graduate program in Indiana, offering state-of-the-art research and teaching facilities.

The ACOTE accreditation team noted major strengths of the program in its final report, writing:

• The program director is lauded for his vision, strong leadership, and commitment to student learning and faculty development. His dedication to the program is evidenced by his enthusiasm and responsiveness to the needs of faculty, staff, and students.
•The academic fieldwork coordinator is commended for the overall management of the fieldwork program…her leadership role within the state fieldwork consortium exemplified her commitment and passion toward fieldwork.
•The faculty is commended for their extensive professional expertise and commitment to student education. Their passion and dedication to research and civic engagement exemplifies for the student the university’s mission. The mentored research component of the curriculum prepares students to become leaders in the scholarship of practice.
•The adjunct faculty provide additional breadth and depth to the curriculum. Their passion for teaching and their investment in the program is noteworthy in enriching the student’s academic experience
•Fieldwork educators and employers are recognized for their strong support of the program.
•The students are positive representatives of the program and profession…and demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of client-centered delivery of care.
•The five curricular themes around which the program is structured and the emphasis on reflection provide a strong foundation for the development of competent and insightful practitioners.

Eighty percent of the program’s students are residents of Indiana.

Keeping tabs on data connected to the 180 standards is challenging, said Thomas Fisher, PhD, OTR, FAOTA, Professor and Chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy. And that challenge doesn’t end when the students graduate and are hired as practitioners.

The program tracks each graduate after they leave and asks employers through an anonymous survey to compare their graduates to graduates of other Occupational Therapy programs. The surveys show employers are pleased with IU students, giving them high marks in terms of being ready to hit the ground running, are competent in documentation, know how to look for the evidence of what they are doing and why they are doing it and are committed to lifelong learning.

The ACOTE reviewers not only look at those surveys, but then meet with a group of employers themselves to hear directly from employers about the program while onsite.
Former students are asked, once they have been employed for a year, how the Occupational Therapy program could be improved. The ACOTE reviewers not only look at those responses, but check to see the program has acted to use input from these students to make improvements.

In the end, all of the effort in complying ACOTE standards is worth it, Fisher said, because it makes for a better program.