Occupational Therapy Assistant

The Occupational Therapy Assistant A.A.S. Degree program is for students who want to help people of all ages to regain, develop, or master everyday living skills for independent, productive, and satisfying lives. This two-year course of study includes academic and fieldwork training to prepare students for a career in Occupational Therapy. Students are trained to work under the supervision of a Registered Occupational Therapist, implementing intervention plans to enable participation in life activities for people of diverse ages, cultures, and abilities.

Learning to interact with healthcare providers and OT clients in a professional and meaningful manner is also emphasized. Program graduates will be eligible to sit for the national board exam for certification through the National Board of Certification for Occupational Therapy.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Skills for the job of Living

Young or old, we all have a job to do – the job of living. Learning, growing, playing, working managing our homes, and caring for our families and ourselves are among the “occupations” of life.

Sometimes physical, emotional, or other challenges prevent people from participating fully in the job of living. Stroke, injury, depression, and developmental disabilities, for example, can make it difficult for people to do everyday tasks or be as active and as independent as they’d like.

Occupational Therapy – a vibrant, growing profession – makes it possible for people to regain independence and to enjoy life to its fullest. By choosing a career in Occupational Therapy, you will make a difference. You will improve the lives of children, young people, and adults alike.

About Occupational Therapy Assistant Practitioners

An Occupational Therapy Assistant works, under the direction of an Occupational Therapist, in hospitals, schools systems, nursing homes, psychiatric programs, rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics and in the community. Occupational Therapy Assistants have been trained to use “occupations” or activities of daily life to help people of all ages participate in their activities of choice to their fullest potential.

Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant

The NSCC OTA Program is a two-year course of study. This includes three academic semesters and one semester of full-time internships. Given the necessary skills and knowledge required to become an OTA, applicants must be prepared to make a strong commitment to both academic coursework and internship training. The OTA must be prepared to work with persons of varied ages, cultures and abilities. OTA students will be challenged in both personal and professional ways as they prepare to become Occupational Therapy Assistants. It is important that all applicants recognize the commitment required if accepted into this program and to this profession.

Facts about Occupational Therapy

Nearly one third of people employed in the profession of Occupational Therapy work with children helping them master the "occupations" of childhood-learning, playing and growing. Handwriting problems are a leading reason schoolchildren are referred to Occupational Therapists.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls Occupational Therapy one of today's fastest growing careers pointing to growing numbers of older adults and young children who need Occupational Therapy services.

Nationwide, there are 324 college or university-based educational programs for Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants.

Occupational Therapists have at least a four-year bachelor's degree and many have masters or doctorate degrees. Occupational Therapy Assistants typically have a two-year associates degree. Beginning in 2007, Occupational Therapists must have at least a master's degree.

Approximately 117,000 Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants are licensed to practice in all states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Florida alone has over 6,000 licensed Occupational Therapy practitioners.

Occupational Therapy services are delivered in a variety of settings such as schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, and mental health clinics.

Conditions benefiting from Occupational Therapy include:

Alzheimer's disease
Attention deficit & hyperactivity disorders
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Cerebral Palsy
Chronic pain
Conditions related to aging
Delayed development
Hand injuries
Hip fracture/ replacement
Learning disabilities
Low vision
Mental retardation
Mood disorders
Musculoskeletal trauma
Parkinson's disease
Repetitive motion disorders
Substance abuse
Sensory dysfunction
Spinal cord injury
Traumatic brain injury

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) was founded in 1917. The historic roots of Occupational Therapy lay in the movement to reform mental health care at the turn of the 20 th century, when it was shown that patients who engaged in "purposeful occupations" such as crafts and practical work experienced a more successful recovery.

The Fund To Promote Awareness of Occupational Therapy was created by AOTA in 2002 as part of a long-term strategy to raise awareness of Occupational Therapy. The Fund is a charitable organization committed to ongoing resource development to support targeted outreach, education, research and professional development opportunities that will increase the public's understanding and utilization of Occupational Therapy services.


Program Requirements

  • All students are required to maintain personal health insurance while enrolled in the OTA Program. Proof of health insurance required.
  • All students are required to hold and maintain CPR certification while enrolled in the OTA Program. Proof of CPR certification required.
  • Students admitted into the OTA Program will be required to have a recent health physical and be current in all vaccines and immunizations. Proof required.
  • Health insurance, CPR certification, health physical, vaccinations and immunizations are not required for Program application.
  • The Program requires that students be proficient in the use of a computer. Students should be prepared to access and submit documents through Desire2Learn, use PowerPoint and be proficient with email. The Program utilizes an online testing format. Students should have access to a personal computer, and/or identify alternative computer resources, such as the computer labs at NSCC.

Criminal Background Checks
Prospective students will be required to provide a copy of a background check and drug screening. NSCC does not use the background check or drug screening as criteria for admission to the program. Background checks and drug screenings are required by clinical sites as a condition of participation. Students are required to participate in a variety of clinical experiences to successfully complete the program. For questions regarding the background check, please call 615-353-3708.


Essential Functions Required for Participation in the OTA Program

The role of an Occupational Therapy Assistant is both rewarding and demanding. The following essential functions are required of all students who enroll in the Nashville State Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.


  • Independently move from room to room and maneuver in small spaces
  • Participate in transfers of patients (children to adult) from a variety of heights and surfaces
  • Guard and assist patients with functional mobility
  • Be able to physically manage self so as not to be a danger to others.
    • Trunk control adequate for independent balance and function
    • No muscle spasms that consistently affect movement or stability
  • Manipulation skills adequate to make notations, participate in clinic maintenance, adjust equipment, assist in patient/client movement, etc.
  • Perform CPR
  • Travel to and from academic and clinical sites
  • Physically participate in an active, 8-10 hour school/work day, consistently.

Communication Skills

  • Use verbal, non-verbal, and written communication to effectively explain and/or demonstrate tasks and techniques to others
  • Communicate effectively in English with patients, families and other healthcare providers, both verbally and in written form.
  • Effectively adapt communication for intended audience
  • Speak with enough volume to be reasonably heard by intended audience
  • Perceive, understand, and appropriately act on non-verbal communication, such as changes in mood, activity, facial expressions and postures
  • Assume the role of an effective member of a health care team
  • Function effectively under supervision, including collaboration as well as effectively receiving and providing feedback
  • Interact and establish rapport with individuals and groups from a variety of social, emotional, cultural and intellectual backgrounds.

Problem Solving/Critical Thinking

  • Function effectively under stress
  • Respond appropriately to emergencies
  • Use sound judgment to adhere to infection control and safety procedures.
  • Demonstrate problem solving skills that reflect consideration of multiple forms of information (written, verbal, observation, etc.). Must be able to reason, measure, calculate, prioritize and synthesize information.
  • Address problems or questions to the appropriate person at the appropriate time.
  • Consistently follow policies and procedures required by clinical and academic settings, governmental regulations, and requirements of reimbursement sources.

Academic Ability

  • Read and understand information from textbooks , online resources, and other materials
  • Synthesize information effectively to be able to demonstrate knowledge and skills through written work, tests and demonstrated performance. Student should be able to synthesize this information from a variety of formats. These formats include, but are not limited to: text, lecture, video/computer and demonstration.
  • Data collection from a variety of sources and interpretation of materials that include, but are not limited to text, notes, online resources, observation, and clinical records
  • Pay attention, without prompting, to teachers, guest speakers and other classmates during verbal presentations.
  • Effectively use a computer and computer programs. These include, but are not limited to: email, PowerPoint, search engines, up/downloading of documents, YouTube, and other online resource sites.

Sensory Capability

  • Visually observe with enough acuity (in a variety of lighting conditions) to participate in lab activities, lectures and clinical experiences
  • Read small print information – such as that can be found on medical equipment.
  • Hear sufficiently to perceive normal tone of voice to follow directions, participate in conversations, answer phones and intercoms
  • Assess and treat all assigned clients, including palpation of the client
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Auditory, visual and tactile abilities sufficient to assess patient status and perform treatments.
  • Perform responsibilities while in close proximity or in physical contact with others.

Professional Behaviors

  • Emotional health and stability sufficient to complete complex patient care responsibilities within an allotted time
  • Flexibility to function and remain calm under stressful conditions, including emergency situations, taxing academic, and clinical workloads
  • Consistently demonstrate compassion, empathy, tact, honesty, responsibility, integrity and strong work ethic
  • Follow safety precautions
  • Perform tasks and interventions within competency level and seek assistance and training when additional knowledge or competency skills are required.
  • Actively seek and participate in continuing professional education opportunities in order to maintain and improve knowledge and competence.
  • Utilize evidence and OT theories/models/frames of reference to provide the most effective interventions for clients/patients.
  • Independently track and complete multiple tasks, meeting deadlines and priorities as set by self and others.
  • Effectively interact with diverse populations and personalities
  • Document and report activities accurately according to the requirements of the setting as well as external regulations, policies or procedures, and professional ethics.

Program Accreditation


Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

The NSCC Occupational Therapy Assistant Program is accredited by: ACOTE
c/o Accreditation Department
American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200 • Bethesda, MD 20814-3449
Phone: 301-652-2682 • Fax: 301-652-7711 • TDD: 800-377-8555
Email: accred@aota.org • Website: www.aota.org
Direct link to information about for the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education:

OTA Program Outcomes: Program Completion and Certification (PDF)


OTA Program Outcomes: Program Completion and Certification

All students graduating from the Nashville State Occupational Therapy Assistant Program are eligible to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy Certification Exam. Proof of successful completion of this exam is required for a license to practice as an Occupational Therapy Assistant in the state of Tennessee.

For access to NBCOT examination comparison pass rates from schools across the country, including NSCC OTA students, click here.

For access to NSCC OTA Program NBCOT examination student pass rate information, and to NSCC OTA Program graduation rates, please click here (PDF).

Program Faculty

Donna Whitehouse, MHA, OTR, Associate Professor, 615-353-3382
Donna WhitehouseMs. Whitehouse is the Program Director for the NSCC OTA Program. She is an Assistant Professor, and teaches courses in Occupational Therapy History, Management and Administration skills as well as courses in Challenges to Mental Health and Interventions for Mental Health. Ms Whitehouse joined NSCC in 2002, following several years on faculty at the Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis. Her interests are in administration, program development, and Aging in Place.

Bachelor of Science Occupational Therapy, University of Tennessee at Memphis, 1990
Master of Health Administration, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1996
Occupational Therapist, Registered, NBCOT; Current Tennessee license

Diane Gaffney, MBA, OTR, FAOTA, Assistant Professor, 615-353-3383
Diane GaffneyMs. Gaffney joined the OTA faculty in 2011. Ms. Gaffney has over thirty years of practice as an Occupational Therapist. She brings to NSCC a wealth of knowledge through in a broad spectrum of her OT practice experience which includes, but is not limited to: pediatrics, adults, management and active involvement in both state and national OT associations. Ms. Gaffney teaches courses in Human Development, Human Movement, Challenges to Physical Health, Interventions and Treatment for Adults and Geriatrics.

Bachelor of Science, Western Michigan University, 1970
Master of Business Administration, Tennessee State University, 1991
NBCOT Certification as Occupational Therapist, Registered
Tennessee Certification in Therapeutic Electrical and Thermal Modalities, 2001

Jenn Myers, BS, COTA, Instructor, 615-353-3582
Jenn MyersMs. Myers is an alumnae of the Nashville State OTA program. She joined the faculty in 2011 as the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and, in addition to her fieldwork responsibilities, teaches courses in Occupations, Documentation and Group Dynamics. Ms. Myers practice experience was focused primarily in the geriatric population.

Associate of Applied Science, Nashville State Community College, 2009
Bachelor of Arts, Columbia College of Chicago, 2000
Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant


Program Resources

OT in Yahoo Finance - 10 Careers Boosted by Healthcare Reform (PDF)

OT in the Forbes Top 5 Recession Proof Jobs Listing


American Occupational Therapy Association


Tennessee Occupational Therapy Association


National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy



Certification Exam

Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the National Certification Examination For The Occupational Therapy Assistant administered by the National Board For Certification In Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination.

After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). 

State Licensure

Tennessee requires licensure to practice as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. All applicants for Tennessee licensure must pass the NBCOT certification examination, in addition to other requirements. A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to attain state licensure.

If students have questions or concerns regarding criminal history and employment eligibility, please contact NBCOT at (301) 990-7979 and the Tennessee Board of Occupational Therapy at (615) 532-3202 or (800) 778-4123.

Employment and Occupational Therapy Assistant Practitioners

An Occupational Therapy Assistant works under the direction of an Occupational Therapist in hospitals, schools systems, nursing homes, psychiatric programs, rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics and in the community. Occupational Therapy Assistants have been trained to use “occupations” or activities of daily life to help people of all ages participate in their activities of choice to their fullest potential.

NSCC Career Services Office

The Career Services Office provides career and employment information and services to students and graduates. Placement assistance is available to graduates and currently enrolled students seeking full- or part-time work.

Current Students

OTA Course Policies and Procedures

  1. Chapter I ~ Introduction
    1. Introduction (PDF)
    2. Historical Overview (PDF)
    3. Mission Statement (PDF)
    4. Program Philosophy (PDF)
  2. Chapter II ~ OTA Program and Student Objectives
    1. General Program Objectives (PDF)
    2. Student Objectives (PDF)
  3. Chapter III ~ OTA Curriculum
    1. Curriculum Design (PDF)
    2. Content Sequence (PDF)
  4. Chapter IV ~ OTA Program and NSCC Policies
    1. Classroom Dress and Behavior Policy (PDF)
    2. Professional Behavior Requirements (PDF)
    3. Use of Cell Phones (PDF)
    4. OTA Course Policies (PDF)
    5. OTA Program Probation (PDF)
    6. OTA Program Retention (PDF)
      OTA Program Retention - Approved 3-year Students (PDF)
    7. Transferring from another OTA Program (PDF)
    8. Withdrawal from OTA Program (PDF)
    9. OTA Program Readmission Policy (PDF)
    10. OTA Program Advising (PDF)
    11. Health and Liability Insurance (PDF)
    12. OTA Program Dues and Fees (PDF)
    13. Grievance and Appeal Procedure (PDF)
  5. Chapter V ~ General Information
    1. OTA Student Organization (PDF)
    2. OTA Advisory Council (PDF)
    3. General Contact Information (PDF)
    4. Student Disability Services (PDF)
    5. NSCC Library and Learning Center (PDF)
  6. Chapter VI ~ Resources
    1. AOTA (PDF)
    2. AOTA Assembly of Student Delegates (PDF)
    3. ACOTE (PDF)
    4. TOTA (PDF)
    5. Preparing for Graduation (PDF)
    6. NBCOT (PDF)
    7. NSCC Career Services (PDF)
    8. Lifelong Learning (PDF)
    9. OTA Program Evaluation (PDF)
    10. SQ3R Study Method (PDF)
    11. Test Taking Hints (PDF)
  7. Chapter VII ~ Appendix
    1. OTA Curriculum Schedule (PDF)
    2. OTA Curriculum (PDF)
    3. Scheduling Chart (PDF)
    4. OTA Course Policies (PDF)
    5. Professional Behavior Competence Document (PDF)


OTA Fieldwork Manual

  1. Chapter I ~ Introduction
    1. Introduction (PDF)
    2. Mission Statement (PDF)
    3. General Program Objectives (PDF)
    4. Philosophy and Purpose of the Program (PDF)
    5. Curriculum Design (PDF)
    6. Fieldwork within the Curriculum (PDF)
    7. Level I and Level II Fieldwork Placement Policy (PDF)
    8. Special Consideration Requests (PDF)
    9. Fieldwork Cancellations (PDF)
    10. Fieldwork Sites and Supervisors (PDF)
    11. Academic Fieldwork Coordinator Roles and Responsibilities (PDF)
    12. Student Responsibilities During Fieldwork (PDF)
  2. Chapter II ~ Level I Fieldwork
    1. Level I Fieldwork Objectives (PDF)
    2. General NSCC OTA Program Level I Fieldwork Purpose (PDF)
    3. Level I Fieldwork (PDF)
    4. Level I Fieldwork Grading Policies (PDF)
    5. Level I Fieldwork Site Evaluation (PDF)
    6. Student Evaluation of Fieldwork Site (PDF)
  3. Chapter III ~ Level II Fieldwork
    1. Level II Fieldwork (PDF)
    2. Level II Fieldwork Supervision (PDF)
    3. Level II Fieldwork Grading Policies (PDF)
    4. Level II Fieldwork Site Evaluation (PDF)
    5. Professional Behaviors Expectations (PDF)
    6. Level II Fieldwork Termination (PDF)
    7. Tips for a Successful Fieldwork Experience (PDF)
  4. Chapter IV ~ Additional Resources
    1. ADA Statement (PDF)
    2. Student Grievance and Appeal Procedure (PDF)
  5. Chapter V ~ Appendix
    1. Curriculum Course Sequence (PDF)
    2. Curriculum Course Sequence 2 (PDF)
    3. Course Descriptions (PDF)
    4. Level I Objectives (PDF)
    5. Level I Fieldwork Site Evaluation (PDF)
    6. Level I Fieldwork Site Evaluation 2 (PDF)
    7. Student Evaluation of Level I Fieldwork (PDF)
    8. Level II Fieldwork Objectives (PDF)
    9. Student Evaluation of Level II Fieldwork (PDF)
    10. What Happens If… (PDF)


OTA Fieldwork Resources


Contact Information

Kimberly McKissack, Program Secretary
Phone: 615-353-3708

Donna Whitehouse, Associate Professor
Phone: 615-353-3382

NSCC OTA on Facebook  OTA on Facebook

Campus Directory

Advising Sheet

OTA AAS Degree Advising (PDF)

Catalog and Class Schedule

See NSCC Catalog for program requirements, recommended schedules, course descriptions and syllabi.

See Class Schedule for course availability.

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