KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska Board of Regents Thursday approved the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s proposal to create an Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program within its College of Allied Health Professions.
UNMC would educate occupational therapy students at the Health Science Education Complex on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus and its Omaha campus.
Occupational therapists help patients develop, regain and improve the skills needed to participate in activities of daily living, and function more effectively in home, work and social activities. They are licensed in every state and serve patients in a variety of environments.
UNMC aims to enroll 42-46 students annually in the three-year, 116-credit hour program. No new state funds will be required for the occupational therapy doctorate program.
Nebraska’s aging population and increased prevalence of chronic conditions are expected to continue to drive workforce demand. Meanwhile, a survey of students at Nebraska’s state colleges and universities has shown strong interest in occupational therapy as a profession.
Thirty-two Nebraska counties have been designated as occupational therapy shortage areas.
UNMC’s occupational therapy education program is the first at a public institution in Nebraska.
Meeting the continued student and workforce demand, particularly in rural Nebraska, and providing Nebraska students a public university option, were the primary goals in developing the new program, said Kyle Meyer, dean of UNMC’s College of Allied Health Professions.
“In addition, the new occupational therapy program will be integrated with our existing doctor of physical therapy program, which will both enhance interprofessional education and promote efficiencies,” Meyer said.
Currently, occupational therapy education programs are accredited at both the master’s and clinical doctorate level, but the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education has mandated that all entry-level degree programs will be at the doctoral level by 2027.
Upon approval by the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, UNMC will begin recruitment for a program director and seek accreditation, with the plan to begin enrollment in the fall of 2019.