Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


The objective of this study was to explore occupational therapy (OT) students’ occupational balance and to examine how OT students' experiences in a graduate program promoted or inhibited occupational balance. Grounded theory methodology was used to develop a theory of the occupational balance of entry-level OT students. Twenty-six students were recruited using convenience and maximum variation sampling. Data analysis through constant comparison of transcripts, field notes, and memos consisted of open, axial, process, and selective coding. A storyline narrative with diagrams displayed relationships among concepts and supporting evidence for inductively derived theoretical propositional statements. Students in OT programs progressed through three phases of occupational balance during graduate school. The presented Theory of Occupational Balance indicated students developed a meaning of occupational balance based on past experiences and personal values. Occupational balance is influenced by different contexts and situations. This study revealed several strategies OT students implemented, including adapting methods to effectively and efficiently learn, using support systems, participating in multiple occupational roles, making time for self-care, and knowing when to seek professional assistance. This article presented a new Theory of Occupational Balance for OT Students. Results can inform administrators and faculty about the implications of curriculum design for the occupational balance of OT students. Understanding student occupational balance and circumstances that can cause disruptions may help prevent disruptions from creating unmanageable stress. Understanding strategies students can implement to return to occupational balance may help faculty suggest options for students who cannot self-manage an occupational balance disruption.


Stephanie Bachman, DHSc, OTD, OTR/L, CLA is a Clinical Associate Professor and the Director of Student Affairs in the entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy program at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana. She earned a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, Utah, and a Doctor of Health Science degree from the University of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana. Additionally, Dr. Bachman is recognized as a Credentialed Leader in Academia by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Laura Santurri, PhD, MPH, CPH is an associate professor at the College of Health Sciences at the University of Indianapolis. Her methodological expertise is in qualitative research, with a focus on community-based participatory methods. Her scholarly interests include the lived experience of managing chronic conditions, especially those that involve chronic pain.

Lucinda Dale, EdD, OTR, CHT, FAOTA is a Professor emerita in the School of Occupational Therapy at the University of Indianapolis.

Penelope A. Moyers, EdD, OT, FAOTA is retired from the University of Indianapolis and adjunct professor at Nova Southeastern University.

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.