Integrative Therapy at the Intersection of Schools and OT Professional Needs
Reflective of the global trend to seek more flexibility in work, schools may experience challenges in hiring full-time onsite specialty providers, such as Occupational Therapy Practitioners (OTP’s). Due to fluctuating caseloads and a shortage of support in specialty areas, schools can find turnover is high and meeting the needs of evolving caseloads is difficult. So, what can schools do to be attractive and relevant to OTP’s seeking technical support and workplace flexibility, while ensuring they get their student population needs met?
The Solution is a Win for Both Parties
From Integrative Therapy’s experience and perspective, positioned at the intersection of school and occupational therapy (OT) needs, we see the solution as an evolved win for both parties. It’s a solution where schools create more flexible onsite and offsite hours for OTPs and OTPs respond by accepting and embracing these roles, ultimately staying onboard longer and making more of an impact for the school and its students.
Over the past two years especially, we’ve stepped in to help schools fill more temporary gaps when OTP’s are unavailable due to maternity leave or caregiving duties. In this role, IT organically saw our inquiries from schools grow as they began to rely on IT to quickly and confidently fill positions beyond those of the temporary type.
We also listened a lot to our OT community and their desire to have 2-3 days a week in their school onsite responsibilities vs daily. And by no means did this mean less of a desire to meet the position requirements, rather it reflected a shift in what they need to do away from a school-based environment to stay well, high energy, engaged, and knowledgeable.
OTP’s Seek Support and Flexibility
Integrative Therapy sees more OTPs seeking part-time roles and benefitting from that person’s involvement in a broader community of their peers. First off, the understanding of various learning environments – anecdotally in addition to personal experience – is highly valuable. Secondly, during the pandemic, OTP’s became incredibly resourceful with remote learning, technology, tools, and efficiencies. They experienced benefits and new ways of work that they want to continue. For them, this means flexibility in creating their own work schedules and building in hours to work offsite.
The pandemic care provided by OTP’s in our schools certainly underscored their ability to make an impact in students’ lives. Undeniably, working from home shone a lens on their own wellness and balance, including tending to their family obligations. Many were in caregiving roles, supported by a bit more flexibility to serve in those roles. For example, OTP’s with young children wanted enough flexibility in their hours to prioritize drop off and pick up for their kids.
Going the Flexible Route, Hiring a Well-rounded OTP
Schools that are willing to explore offering more flexibility for OTP hires, should also take a close look at how they can support that hire in their professional career and continued learning. This is where we come into the schools we work with as Integrative Therapy and provide structure, onboarding for new hires, and continued guidance to successfully set and transition OTP’s to a school-based role if they have limited or no experience in this setting. Our schools tell us that this support makes a positive difference. Everything feels more cohesive, proven, and strategic.
The support we give our OTPs comes from Integrative Therapy’s resources including our subscriptions to, and investment in, technology and tools. Securing many of these resources is too cost significant for an individual school. For example we pay for and use the PACER Simon Technology Center (to consult with assistive tech experts), Tools to Grow, and Pink Oatmeal (both of the latter being subscriptions that have therapy materials already made to print/access for treatment interventions). In addition, we have a bank of goals that we’ve created based on our leadership team’s combined two decades of experience in occupational therapy.
Continuous Improvement and Better Outcomes
As we continue in our 14th year of providing mentorship, training, and support at Integrative Therapy, our OTP’s are solid in accessing peer networks and professional continuing education (CE) to learn. There’s a spirit and drive for continuous improvement in our work. Through offerings like iPads complete with the top 30 apps to use with students, to reimbursement for continuing education courses for full and part-time professionals,, Integrative Therapy makes career growth accessible. We also give free and discounted access to 10+ on-demand CE courses through our affiliate company, Integrative Education.
Schools that comprehend the opportunities in structuring their OTP roles with flexibility and support, will thrive in attracting the current and future successful OTP. They will effectively give students and families the best possible experiences and outcomes. If we can move past assumed challenges in hiring full time for all hours onsite, schools and their OTP’s can more closely collaborate and shape new and exciting models. A win for all!