participate ot state association

5 Reasons to Participate in Your OT State Association

The following is a guest post from Melissa Kimmerling, EdD, MOT, OTR/L, on the benefits of participating in your OT state association. Thanks so much to Melissa for sharing!

I see you. You’re busy. It is hard to think of another thing to add to your plate, much less something that costs money. You may be someone who has been impacted by the recent Medicare payment changes or furloughs associated with COVID. It can be easy to get down about the state of practice sometimes.

I am here to share with you how adding one more thing to your plate might just address some of your occupational therapy practice conundrums. That thing is: participating in your state’s occupational therapy association.

I know, I know. I’ve heard it before: What will they do for me? Why would this be worth my time? While all state associations differ in their structure, membership benefits, and overall impact on practice, they all have some core benefits in common. Here are 5 reasons to consider participating in your OT state association:

1. Networking

It might not seem like much, but the professional connections you can make through your state association may just be the thing you need to take your career to the next level. Want to start researching or writing? Want to switch to a different area of practice? You’ll find someone else with similar goals and you can tackle it together!

Find out the ins and outs from someone living and breathing it each day. Want to go back to school? Talk to someone who has done it! Or, enjoy the camaraderie you can get by talking to others in your same practice area that aren’t from within your facility. It is amazing what an outside perspective can bring!

2. Policy and Advocacy

While changes to Medicare happen at a federal level, states are assigned the responsibility for managing their Medicaid dollars. In addition, state-level decisions include funding for public schools, funding for community projects such as accessibility and related renovations to public spaces, and the management of public health initiatives.

These are just a few examples of decisions made at the state level that can impact OT. Membership dollars often are partially allocated to representation in the political arena. The greater that allocation, the greater role the association can play in influencing the decisions that affect our profession and the people we serve.

Many state organizations involve members in their policy and advocacy efforts, which can be a great professional growth opportunity! Next time your senator is in town on break, you’ll know exactly what to say when you run into him or her at the local pizza joint.

3. Job Opportunities

Many state organizations post open jobs for their members. In addition, many employers have booths or speaking engagements at state association conferences. Having the ability to network with these potential employers outside of a formal application or interview just might put you one step ahead in landing your next position.

4. Continuing Education

We all need continuing education to maintain our licenses to practice, even if that amount and frequency vary by state. Many state associations provide small-scale and medium-scale continuing education opportunities. Some examples include speakers from within the organization, conferences with national speakers, and relationships with online CEU platforms.

The financial benefit of membership is often worth it for the CEUs alone.

5. Professional Growth

OT state associations often have leadership opportunities available. Whether it is formal board member positions or less formal task force opportunities, OTs in non-leadership roles are able to flex their leadership muscles through these collaborative endeavors.

Leadership positions in state associations can be the experience someone needs to pad that resume and continue to climb the career ladder through a safe, supportive opportunity.

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Even if you don’t see yourself being very active in your OT state association, your membership can have a positive impact on occupational therapists and clients within your state through the financial support of the organization.

If you are interested in finding out more about what your state association does, or you have ideas on how to improve your state associations impact, be sure to research online and reach out to those in leadership positions.

As a proud Board Member of a State Association myself, I can proudly attest to the personal and professional growth this opportunity has given me, well worth the small fee. I hope you consider what opportunities may lie ahead for you as well.

Together, we can ensure occupational therapy is a valued, vital member of every healthcare and educational team.

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