Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


In the spring of 2020, graduates from occupational therapy (OT) programs across the globe were entering a world of clinical unknowns. The students from this graduating cohort likely had little to no education or training on how to deliver OT in the wake of COVID-19. How well prepared did these new graduates perceive themselves to be to enter a healthcare climate in a pandemic and what were their biggest concerns? The objective of this study was to understand new graduates’ perspectives of the impact of COVID-19 on their future as occupational therapy practitioners (OTPs), and their sense of preparedness to address the challenges they might face. To do so, nine recent OT graduate students participated in semi-structured individual interviews. First cycle data analysis used descriptive and in-vivo codes and second cycle coding used pattern coding to identify emergent themes from across interviews. Three themes emerged in data analysis that represented how participants saw COVID-19 impacting their lives and their role as OTPs on multiple levels of systems and practice. These themes are: 1) Micro: COVID-19’s impact on work with clients; 2) Meso: COVID-19’s impact on the profession and the provision of OT; and 3) Macro: COVID-19’s impact on systems and structures. Based on these findings, implications for educators moving forward include: methods for preparing students to work with clients virtually and in a post-pandemic world; recommendations for developing strategies for working in unpredictable and unknown contexts; and, suggestions for addressing issues of equity and social justice.


Laura VanPuymbrouck, PhD, OTR/L is an assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at Rush University in Chicago. Her clinical experience as an OTP spans over 30 years across the care continuum of physical rehabilitation. Her doctoral research (University of Illinois at Chicago Disability Studies) and scholarship focuses on healthcare disparities and disparate health outcomes of people with disabilities as well as how academic preparation of healthcare providers attends to these concerns.

Carli Friedman, PhD is the Director of Research for CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. Her research centers on meaningful community participation and empowerment of people with disabilities. Carli holds a Doctorate in Disability Studies (University of Illinois at Chicago), a Master's in Disability and Human Development (University of Illinois at Chicago), and a Bachelor's in Psychology (University of Delaware). She is the author of over 85 journal articles, book chapters, research briefs, and reports focusing on the integration of people with disabilities, modern disability prejudice, self-advocacy and Medicaid HCBS waivers.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declaration 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.