Student Reflects on Fieldwork at AOTA

Clarice Miller from the Class of 2017 has been completing her 3rd optional fieldwork this fall with the American Occupational Therapy Association.  She wrote a reflection on her time at AOTA and its impact on her future plans:

My experience at AOTA has been amazing. Everyone is welcoming and I am an active member of our team. I primarily work with our Federal Affairs Team and occasionally collaborate with our Regulatory and State Affairs Team. My typical week involves attending and reporting on Congressional Hearings on the Hill, attending meetings with Congressional Staff with AOTA lobbyists, and meeting Congressmen and women who are supportive of occupational therapy. Additionally, I participated in numerous other educational opportunities such as attending the Learning and Action Network (LAN) Summit on payment reform, meeting with AOTA employees and AOTA Board Members, attending coalition meetings, attending events about the Opioid Crisis and Center for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) payment reform, and various other projects. It has been a “choose your own adventure” type of fieldwork and I chose to focus on issues primarily affecting Medicaid and Medicare.

It has been wonderful to see all of the work that AOTA does to support occupational therapy practitioners and the care and research that goes into the materials AOTA produces. I have learned so much about how federal legislation is developed and how AOTA works with other organizations and Congressional Committees and staff to negotiate the content of a bill to best support occupational therapy practitioners and their clients. A majority of our meetings involved negotiating a solution to the therapy cap and advocating for our home health bill which will permit occupational therapists to open home health cases.

For my personal projects, I follow health news closely and look for anything that may impact our profession. One of my main projects has been to thoroughly research Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and assess the role of occupational therapy in those payment models. I will produce a report of my findings and identify how occupational therapy practitioners can meet the goals of an ACO and where there is potential for emerging areas of practice. Additionally, I researched and reported on the new HHS and CMS rule about the HCAHPS pain management survey questions and wrote a blog post on OT Connections about my personal journey to become more politically engaged.

Moving forward, I plan to enter the field as a practitioner while continuing to advocate for occupational therapy at both the state and federal level. I will pursue opportunities to work on my state senator’s campaign, work with my state association on legislative goals, and continue to seek opportunities to work with AOTA. After this fieldwork, I have a better appreciation of AOTA and have a better understanding of what it means to be an occupational therapy practitioner. I feel more confident in my ability to define occupational therapy and communicate why it is vital that our services continue to be valued and supported by payment reform and value-based care incentives. My exact path and what future degrees I will pursue is unclear, but I know that advocating for the inclusion and advancement of occupational therapy in the changing healthcare structure is my main goal, no matter the job title.

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