UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Occupational therapists' re-entry to practice following a career break : a mixed methods study Boily, Jeanette


There is a shortage of occupational therapists (OTs) in Canada requiring strategies to both increase training opportunities for new therapists as well as retain experienced therapists to maintain a sustainable workforce. One of the strategies for retention is to support therapists who have taken a substantial career break to meet regulatory requirements to return to practice. There is limited research on the re-entry process of OTs and only one study in Canada described a specific re-entry program. There is little information on the factors that facilitate or impede the re-entry transition for OTs in Canada. A literature review revealed a number of factors influencing re-entry of OTs outside of Canada and within other regulated health professions. This study focused on the re-entry transition of OTs in British Columbia (BC) using a mixed methods approach to verify if factors influencing re-entry of OTs elsewhere and of other health professionals also influence the re-entry experience of OTs in BC. A survey followed by semi-structured interviews revealed that returning OTs were primarily mid-career female professionals with children who were highly motivated to return to practice and most had good social support during their re-entry. The study showed that professional connectedness, appropriate supervision that recognized their clinical experience, and opportunities to complete a competence confirmation practicum contributed greatly to a successful return. The study also discovered a number of systemic barriers to successful re-entry primarily related to poor integration among institutional intermediaries involved in the re-entry transition. The lack of active involvement beyond setting re-entry requirements by the regulatory college, the lack of understanding of the re-entry requirements and little or no recognition of re-entry as professional transition by health employers and unions, as well as a lack of direct support for returners by professional associations made the return unnecessarily difficult. Universities could also support the returners by providing refresher courses. This study led to a number of recommendations to improve the re-entry process that would have the potential to lead to higher re-entry success and retention of OTs.

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