Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


Exploring the factors that influence occupational therapy (OT) and occupational therapy assistant (OTA) students to join and participate in professional associations is critical to determine how to extend engagement after graduation. Previous research on health care student participation in professional associations has not included OT or OTA students. The researchers conducted an online quantitative national pilot survey to explore the perceptions of OT/OTA students and to identify supports and challenges for membership. The purposive sampling of currently enrolled students took place over three months in 2017, resulting in 251 responses representing all geographic regions in the United States. The researcher-developed survey evaluated student perceptions of professional membership challenges and supports at both the state and national levels. There was a statistically significant relationship between students participating in an organized student association and reporting membership in their state and national associations. Students sought out professional association memberships, even when their academic institutions did not provide support. A majority of students indicated that they planned to be American Occupational Therapy Association members after graduation. Students suggested that more economical membership, conference registration, and academic support could encourage active participation and engagement in their professional associations, extending beyond graduation. This study adds the OT student voice to the discussion about professional membership and engagement to the existing literature.


Suzanne E. Holm, OTD, OTR/L, BCPR is the Occupational Therapy Academic Program Coordinator and Assistant Professor at Regis University. She supports a collaborative partnership for a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree between Creighton and Regis Universities. She is interested in the student perspective and supports professional development and engagement in professional associations.

Patricia Stutz-Tanenbaum, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA is the Fieldwork Coordinator and Assistant Professor at Colorado State University. She facilitates fieldwork learning experiences by building upon the OT curriculum design and creates a vision with students to launch their professional career as occupational therapists.

David Greene, PhD, MS is Associate Professor at Colorado State University and primarily is involved in with research and biomechanics. His clinical experiences focused on rehabilitation.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.