Occupational therapy workers needed — new program will train assistants for the field


Occupational therapy assistant Sheridan Hollifield, left, moves a cellphone to catch 8-year-old Zamarie Whitfield’s eye while occupational therapist Christy Steele holds the child during a session at Ramsey Therapy Group. Indian Capital Technology Center and Connors State College are starting a program to address a shortage of occupational therapy assistants.

Occupational therapy assistant Sheridan Hollifield uses gentle encouragement and a moving cellphone to catch the eye of 8-year-old Zamarie Whitfield.

Hollifield’s skills are in short supply around Muskogee.

Indian Capital Technology Center seeks to address that shortage by starting an Occupational Therapy Assistant program this August at its Muskogee campus.

The program, held in conjunction with Connors State College, will enable students to earn an Associate in Applied Science degree as an occupational therapy assistant, as well as a certificate from Indian Capital Technology Center.

Penny Stack, chairwoman of the ICTC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program, said ICTC seeks to provide an affordable program for students seeking OTA certification.

“There is basically a shortage of occupational therapy practitioners in the area,” Stack said. “And rural service areas are depleted for occupational therapy practitioners and OT assistants.”

According to a 2010 report prepared by the Eastern Regional Health Care Coalition, many occupational therapy assistants were nearing retirement age. The report said 39 percent of occupational therapy assistants the area are above the age of 50. The area covered by the report included the counties of Muskogee, Wagoner, McIntosh, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Okmulgee, Washington, Nowata, Craig, Ottawa, Delaware, Mayes and Rogers.

Lisa Wade, with the Eastern Regional Health Care Coalition, said the demand is greater now than it was when the report was issued four years ago.

Stack said the number of health care related careers is expected to grow by 8 percent in eastern Oklahoma and statewide between 2012 and 2017.

Although Connors offers the degree, ICTC will offer the program.

“We have the facilities, and we can do it at a lower cost than Connors,” Stack said.

The program will be housed in ICTC’s new Health Sciences Building, which is under construction.

The facility is expected to be completed well in time for the first class to start this August, Stack said.

The program is limited to adult ICTC students who have completed a certain number of college credit hours and have been accepted for admission at CSC.

Application deadline for the 2015-2016 OTA program is May 28. Applications are available at all ICTC campuses or online at www.ICTCtech.com.

Tuition for the one-year program is estimated at $5,200, and financial aid is available. People also could qualify for the Muskogee Difference Scholarship if they live in Muskogee County and commit to work in the county.

Stack said the program is in the process of getting accredited from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy.