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Graduates of Occupational Therapy Assistant Major Excel on Certification Exams


One hundred percent of the 2004 graduates of the Occupational Therapy Assistant major at Pennsylvania College of Technology passed their certification exam − a performance consistent with previous graduates of the program.

Since 1988, when the first graduates of Penn College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant degree major took the national certification exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, 99.8 percent have passed.

Of the 70 Penn College graduates who have taken the exam since 2001, 69 have passed the first time, and one passed after a repeat exam. The graduates’ test scores also rank above national averages. The national pass rate has averaged 71 percent.

“There are probably two things that are the secrets to our success,” said Barbara J. Natell, director of occupational therapy assistant. “One: When I designed the program, I designed it to include four semesters (of classroom study) plus field work,” explaining that many other occupational therapy assistant programs offer three semesters plus field work. She said she designed the program with additional classroom time keeping in mind that many of the graduates would work in rural practices, where there might be less supervision.

Natell said the second secret to the Occupational Therapy Assistant program’s success is that all of the faculty members have been teaching at Penn College for 12 years or more, and all have extensive experience − a collective total among three teachers of more than 90 years − in occupational-therapy practice.

She said not only are the graduates doing well on their certification exams, but employers speak well of their work.

“Employers are very happy with our graduates across the board and very happy with their skill set, because I think they get a little more at Penn College,” Natell said.

Another factor in the Occupational Therapy Assistant students’ success is that they participate in a great amount of hands-on work in labs, clinical role-playing and group projects, in addition to extensive fieldwork, Natell said.

And, tests in the major are conducted much like the certification exam “so they’re used to thinking in terms of clinical problem-solving,” Natell added.

Occupational therapy provides opportunities to assist people facing challenges in everyday life, helping them to improve their independence and restore their ability to engage in productive living. Penn College graduates work in diverse settings, ranging from activities programs for the elderly to counseling and case-management positions for delinquent youth.

Following completion of the associate-degree Occupational Therapy Assistant major at Penn College, graduates may pursue an entry-level master’s degree at College Misericordia. Students may also pursue a dual associate’s degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant and bachelor’s degree in Applied Health Studies at Penn College.

The Occupational Therapy Assistant major at Penn College is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.

For more information about the academic programs offered by the School of Health Sciences at Penn College, call (570) 327-4519, send e-mail or visit online.

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