Silence from NYSOTA on OT Continuing Competency

I recently posted on the status of continuing competency requirements for occupational therapists in NY State. In summary, my concern is that the bill for these requirements has been stalled in senate committees but a very similar requirement for physical therapists just passed. I wrote to NYSOTA asking about an update on this issue and have not received any response.

Of course this is an issue that I have all kinds of historical interest in - and it is no secret to anyone that I am a long-term volunteer for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. This is where my passion over the issues of competence and competency was born and bred.

Still, my feelings on this matter also have a lot to do with the perceived legitimacy of occupational therapy as a profession and broad protection of the public. Regulation is sometimes unnecessary and stifling - I am not a believer in the nanny-state. However, health professions are historically unable to police themselves appropriately - and occupational therapy is absolutely no different than any other health profession. Case in point:

In New York State the therapist treating your grandparent who fractured a hip or your child who has cerebral palsy only needs to pass a certification exam ONCE. There is no requirement that this therapist ever steps foot inside a classroom or continuing education course EVER AGAIN. There is no requirement for them to advance their knowledge and competency in any way. Even if they DO decide to pursue continuing education our current models are accepting any continuing education course from a provider that is IACET approved.

Now consumers might not realize that there are many IACET approved courses that have truly dubious content. A recent local example is a continuing education course for Western New York occupational therapists on Quantum Touch. Undoubtedly, continuing education organizers and providers reap reasonable financial dividends through their offerings; I am just so disappointed to see that occupational therapy professionals in my own community who offer continuing education would advance themselves over the larger well-being of the people we are entrusted to provide services to. Please, someone help me here: in what way is this Quantum Touch quackery consistent with the scope of practice of occupational therapy?

So watch out, Western New York consumers! Even if your therapist does attend continuing education courses - make sure that they aren't attending continuing education that is based on mysticism. The New York State Occupational Therapy Association is silent - only choosing to comment on other bills. When it comes to protection, the public has to look out for itself.


Chuck said…
Hi Chris,

Sam at AOTA (the staff person that handles our blogs, forums, etc) recommended this blog to me.

Obviously I can't speak on behalf of NYSOTA but I can certainly lend my perspective. From what I know there are two bills out there to amend the practice act. One would create cont. comp requirements and the other would tweak the OT scope of practice and establish licensure for OTAs.

As you may know in NY, OTAs are not licensed, but rather certified by the NY OT board. Under the current regulation, OTAs do not need to pass the NBCOT exam to become certified by the state and practice. That is a huge loophole in the NY law and in my view is a priority. Also, OTAs are essentially exempt for the NY OT law, the board doesn't have much authority to regulate OTAs. This is a consumer protection issue.

Certainly continuing competence is important and both bills should be passed, but in terms of priorities, again from my perspective, the licensure issue is important.

We're happy to work with NYSOTA and AOTA members in NY to help get these two important bills passed.

Chuck Willmarth
Director, State Affairs
Chuck makes an excellent point - the COTA licensure issue is incredibly important. I personally think it is so important that it should not be 'bundled up' with all the other OT licensure issues - perhaps we could have had some movement on the COTA licensure if there wasn't the opposition to the other parts of the bill.

All that aside, I still am not sure why we couldn't jump on the PT continuing competency bill bandwagon and get ours passed at the same time.

Anonymous said…
My comment is in regards to the continuing education comments. I have attended courses provided by this local company and found them to be excellent. Some courses are tradional in nature, and I've found the speakers to be well educated and well versed. I attended an exercise conference that also included a segment on Tai Chi, a non-traditional treatment. We've used some of these techniques in our holistic approach to OT with great results. If I had not attended, I would not have introduced these new concepts to my clinic. Many courses are offerred by many providers and my therapists choose those most applicable to our field. I would hope most OT's do the same. Different courses benefit different populations, and I am glad there are diversified offerings from which to choose.
I would hardly label Tai Chi as non-traditional - it is one of the most widely researched exercise progams that is currently on the continuing education rounds. A good review of Tai Chi studies was completed by local folks actually - the PubMed abstract is at

As far as I can tell, most implementations of Tai Chi progams don't involve healing people's energy fields over the phone, don't claim to cure cancer, etc. Tai Chi is in no way the same as the aforementioned Quantum Touch quackery.
Anonymous said…
My comment is also in regards to the continuing education comments. I as well have attended several continuing education courses through this local company. I have nothing but good things to say about them. Not only do they provide a diverse seclection of courses in OUR DIVERSE FIELD of Occupational Therapy, they offer them at a very reasonable price. All courses have been well presented by guest speakers. I have utilized several of these learned concepts towards my own OT practice and treatment, and they have done nothing but improve my quality of treatment. Isn't this something all Occupational Therapists strive for? Just becaues you don't believe in Quantum Touch, doesn't mean it hasn't helped someone lead a better life.
Hm, another anonymous comment. You would think that the anonymous Quantum Touch practitioners would want to publicize who they are so that people could flock to them to have their cancer cured. Oh well.

I would disable anonymous comments on the blog, but they seem to help me prove my point.

I want to reiterate that my quarrel is with the intervention, and although I am disappointed that the course is being offered - it is not my objective to skewer the company. I don't know the sum total of what they offer and I think people will miss the point if they think this is some attack against some continuing education company.

This is primarily about the more global issue of public protection and secondarily why professionals sometimes seem to fall into the abyss of charlatanism.

But all that aside - because I really do want to help my anonymous commenter - I would gently remind them that even if they think that some mountebank did something that helped someone lead a better life, that still doesn't make it occupational therapy.

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