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ACOTE Announcement-COVID19

ACOTE Announcement-COVID19

The Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®) continues to closely monitor the rapidly evolving circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on OT and OTA programs. ACOTE will continuously review its accreditation processes and, when possible, provide flexibility within the confines of the rules and regulations that they must adhere. This assures that ACOTE can maintain their recognition as an accrediting body and preserve the quality of the programs thereby, protecting students and the public.

The US Department of Education is providing broad approval to institutions to use distance education modalities to accommodate students on a temporary basis, without going through the regular approval process.  ACOTE is upholding the Department’s recommendation. This flexibility only applies to a program during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  A program that chooses to continue to use distance education post pandemic, must seek ACOTE approval.  Please use the following as a guide:

ACOTE® Standards:  Programs are expected to remain in compliance with the ACOTE Standards as the 2018 ACOTE Standards allow for innovation and flexibility in how programs deliver both didactic coursework and fieldwork experiences.

Didactic Coursework: Each institution must make its own decision to determine the best way to ensure continued education for its students, while keeping in mind all local, state, and federal regulations and recommendations.  While it is imperative that programs maintain compliance with the ACOTE Standards, we realize many of you will transition to distance education modalities (i.e., online technologies) during the pandemic. The US Department of Education is not requiring programs to notify ACOTE of these temporary changes.

Level I Fieldwork:  The 2018 ACOTE Standard C.1.9. Level I Fieldwork, provides a myriad of options to satisfy fieldwork level I requirements, such as simulation, standardized patients, etc. Level I fieldwork cannot be substituted for any part of the level II fieldwork.

Level II Fieldwork: Given the rapidly changing health impact the virus is having across the US and within the health systems, ACOTE acknowledges that flexibility with fieldwork experiences may be necessary to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. This may include the need to temporarily suspend the fieldwork experience. Students who are currently on level II fieldwork should follow the guidelines from their academic institution and the clinical site.

The 2018 ACOTE Standard C.1.10. Length of Level II Fieldwork, requires a minimum of 24 weeks’ full-time for OT and 16 weeks’ full-time for OTA. Simulation cannot be used for level II fieldwork. Waiving fieldwork weeks is not acceptable due to state licensure and certification requirements and therefore, may impact graduation dates.

While ACOTE expects all programs to ensure students meet program outcomes, as well as course and fieldwork objectives, the current fieldwork standards contain inherent flexibilities that allow programs several options to develop level II fieldwork experiences which reflect the program’s curriculum design. Programs should consider:

  • Allowing students to complete level II fieldwork in one setting if it is reflective of more than one practice area or in a maximum of four different settings.
  • Other types of experiences and practice settings such as telehealth, and non-traditional/ emerging practice settings where no occupational therapy services exist.
  • If students are working in a setting where no occupational therapy services exist, the 8 hours of direct supervision could be met via telecommunication.
  • The direct supervision can be for 8 consecutive hours or distributed throughout the week totaling 8 hours.
  • Using the AOTA Fieldwork Performance Evaluation for the Occupational Therapy Student or an equivalent measure, developed by the program, as a mechanism for formal evaluation of student performance on level II fieldwork.

Doctoral Capstone: Standard D.1.5. Length of Doctoral Capstone Experience, requires that the doctoral capstone experience be a minimum of 14 weeks (560 hrs.) and no more than 20% of the 560 hours can be completed off site from the mentored practice setting(s).  The 14 weeks (560 hrs.) requirement can be completed using reasonable accommodations such as telehealth and virtual meetings. The doctoral capstone experience must be started after the completion of all coursework, level II fieldwork, and preparatory activities defined in Standard D.1.3. The program must ensure that the capstone experience is in compliance with all aspects required by D.1.0 Doctoral Capstone Standards.

The accreditation department is here to serve and support our programs and students during these difficult times.  If you have any questions, please notify the Accreditation Department at accred@aota.org.

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