Giving Confidence to Consumers

 

When we visit a health care provider, we believe that we will be treated by a practitioner who is qualified in their area of practice. But have you ever stopped to wonder who ensures that practitioners are in fact qualified – and who to turn to if you receive care that is not up to standard?

For the profession of occupational therapy (OT) in Ontario, the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario ensures that practice standards are met. The College is not a teaching school, but rather sets and enforces standards for the OT profession. Other organizations, such as universities that teach occupational therapy, and the professional associations that promote the profession, also play important roles in ensuring safe, competent practice. However, the specific mandate of the College is to ensure that you, the consumer, can have confidence in the quality of care that you receive when you visit an occupational therapist.

Occupational therapists are rehabilitation professionals who work in a wide variety of settings to assist people whose ability to function independently has been challenged by accident, disability, disease or emotional or developmental problems. The College’s role is to protect the public from unqualified or unethical practitioners. There are many ways that the College can do this, such as provision of educational opportunities and establishing the minimum standards that must be met in order to work as an OT.

The College has established criteria, enforceable by law, that specify who can be a member of the College and work as an occupational therapist. These criteria include such things as education requirements, no criminal or profession-related offences, successful completion of a comprehensive examination, and a requirement that the individual be up to date in their professional knowledge. No one can register with the College until they have met these requirements.

To assist the public to identify registered occupational therapists, a special designation – OT Reg. (Ont.) – has been developed. It is unlawful for someone in Ontario to use this designation or the title “occupational therapist” if they are not registered with the College. Since registration is mandatory, you can be confident that your occupational therapist is accountable to the College for their standard of practice.

Once registered, the requirement to demonstrate competence in practice continues. Every therapist must annually demonstrate that they continue to meet the registration requirements; if they don’t, they must re-qualify or stop practising. Additionally, all occupational therapists are required to participate in a Quality Assurance Program designed to help them clearly understand College requirements and standards. The program also assists the College in identifying therapists who may not be meeting standards, and helps OTs to improve their skills before problems arise or members of the public are placed at risk.

As well, the College offers education sessions and workshops for OTs, providing an opportunity for information sharing and discussion of regulatory matters. These are important opportunities not only for OTs to learn about College requirements, but also for the College to learn about changes taking place “in the field” that need to be addressed with new standards and guidelines.

The public is also safeguarded in another way. If therapists’ clients (or clients’ family members), employers or colleagues feel the OT is not maintaining the standard of the profession, they can initiate a complaint with the College. The College is required by law to consider every complaint that it receives. The types of complaints and concerns that the College receives vary widely, and there are several different processes available to resolve issues. However, in all circumstances, the College’s primary concern is to take appropriate steps to ensure that the public is protected.

The next time you visit an occupational therapist, you can go with the confidence that the practitioner is accountable to their College for maintaining standards of practice and quality of care.

For more information on the profession of occupational therapy, the College and its programs, contact the College or visit our website.
Barbara Worth, B.Sc. (OT), OT Reg. (Ont.),
Registrar
340-10 Bay St.
Toronto, Ontario M5J 2R8
Phone: (416) 214-1177
Toll-free: 1-800-890-6570
E-mail: info@coto.org
Website: www.coto.org

 

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