Practice Issues - FAQs
- The scope of practice for the profession
of occupational therapy is defined in the law. Does that mean that I can
do everything that falls within the legal scope of practice of my profession?
Answer: Part 29 of the Rules of the Board of Regents requires that licensees practice within their personal scope of competence. If you are not competent to provide a service that you are legally allowed to provide, then you may not provide that service. As a licensed professional, it is your responsibility to practice within the scope of your abilities and expertise. If you practice outside your personal scope of competence, you can be charged with professional misconduct.
- If I am unsure about whether something falls within my legal scope of
practice, how can I find out?
Answer: You can write to:
The New York State Education Department
Office of the Professions
State Board for Occupational Therapy
89 Washington Avenue, 2nd Floor, West Wing
Albany, New York 12234-1000
Phone: 518-474-3817 ext. 100
- What is the appropriate use of titles by occupational therapists and
occupational therapy assistants?
Answer: New York State licenses occupational therapists and authorizes occupational therapy assistants. Since an occupational therapist must pass the national certification examination to become licensed, almost all licensed occupational therapists hold the designation "OTR." It is common practice for these individuals to sign their names using the title "OTR/L," where the "R" refers to national certification and the "L" refers to state licensure. However, there is no requirement in New York State that licensed occupational therapists be registered nationally. Licensed occupational therapists who are not nationally registered would use the title "OT/L." In addition, occupational therapy assistants need not be certified nationally but must be authorized by the New York State Education Department. Since an occupational therapist assistant must, as of February 13, 2012, pass the national certification examination to become authorized, many occupational therapy assistants maintain national certification and, as a result, generally use the title "COTA" where the "C" refers to national certification. Occupational therapy assistants who are New York State authorized but who do not hold national certification should not use the title "COTA," but, rather, "OTA." Individuals working with a limited permit in occupational therapy may only indicate the degree awarded, e.g., "MS/OT."
- Must I wear an identification badge when I am providing occupational
therapy services in a healthcare setting?
Answer: You must wear an identification badge indicating your name and your professional title if you are practicing as an employee or operator of a hospital, clinic, group practice or multi professional facility, or at a commercial establishment offering health services to the public.
- How long must I maintain patient records?
Answer: All patient records must be kept for six years. Records for children must be kept until the child is 22, even if that means keeping the records for more than six years.
- As a currently registered New York State authorized occupational therapy
assistant, may I perform occupational therapy evaluations?
Answer: Occupational therapy assistants are defined in Education Law, Article 156, Section 7906(6), as exempt from licensure in occupational therapy and, therefore, may practice anything within the scope of practice of occupational therapy. Since occupational therapy assistants as a rule have not demonstrated competence to perform patient/client evaluations, they may not be delegated to do so without having demonstrated competence and/or without supervision. All licensed individuals must practice within their personal scope of competence (see question 1).
- How much supervision must be provided for occupational therapy assistants?
Answer: Education Law requires that occupational therapy assistants work under the direction and supervision of a licensed occupational therapist or physician. Specific provisions regarding this supervision are found in Section 76.8 of the Commissioner's Regulations. These regulations require the development of a written supervision plan by the supervisor, and generally provide that the level and type of supervision be set forth in that plan.
- May I use an "aide" to provide occupational therapy services?
Answer: New York State law restricts the practice of occupational therapy to licensed professionals. Individuals who are not licensed may not provide occupational therapy services. People who are employed to assist occupational therapists in such activities as cleaning equipment, preparing a room for therapy, or performing secretarial duties should not be referred to as "occupational therapy aides" as this term may be misleading to the public.
- May I supervise an unlicensed person, such as a home health aide or personal care aide?
Answer: Under New York State Law, only a licensed person may perform tasks that require a license. Therefore, you may not supervise an unlicensed individual if that person would be providing any such restricted services. However, to the extent that such services do not involve any restricted tasks, nothing in the practice act would explicitly preclude such supervision. Nonetheless, there are a number of factors that should be considered when engaging in a supervisory relationship that blends professional and non-professional services.
First, it must be clear to all involved whether services being provided are being done within your professional capacity. Further, under no circumstances should an unlicensed individual be held out or represented as providing professional services. Additionally, it is important to recognize that individuals or agencies engaging someone to provide professional services may expect that only professional services are to be provided during this engagement. It could be unlawful for an individual to document that professional services were being provided during a time when, in fact, un-licensed services were only provided.
- May a general business corporation employ occupational therapists and/or
occupational therapy assistants?
Answer: Only a person licensed or otherwise exempt may practice occupational therapy or use the title "occupational therapist." There is no exemption for a general business corporation to either use the title "occupational therapist" or practice occupational therapy. Inasmuch as a general business corporation acts through its employees, no employee of a general business corporation may offer occupational therapy services to the public or hold out as practicing occupational therapy. (See additional information regarding corporate or other business entity structures.)