Internationally educated occupational therapists transitioning to practice in Canada: A qualitative study
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BACKGROUND/AIM: While internationally educated occupational therapists (IEOTs) may assist Western countries in addressing workforce shortages, their transition to practice can be difficult. Provincial and national levels of government in Canada have funded initiatives to address the barriers experienced by IEOTs. The purpose of this study is to identify the key forces shaping the experiences of IEOTs transitioning to practice in Canada. METHODS: An interpretive description approach was taken to interview 11 IEOTs who graduated from the Occupational Therapy Examination and Practice Preparation (OTepp) program. Data analysis was guided by the theoretical scaffolding of the occupational therapy profession. Two team members, who are also occupational therapists, developed codes and categories independently and then through discussion reached a higher level of interpretation. RESULTS: The experiences of IEOTs in Canada were shaped by two key forces: Realising that more than exam preparation is required and the impact of previous person, environment and occupation transactions. Participants underestimated their learning needs related to their transition to Canadian practice. As they engaged in the OTepp program, they realised that their learning extended beyond that required for the national certification exam. Also, the extent to which the participant (person), previous context (environment) and previous practice (occupation) were similar to Canadian therapists, influenced IEOTs' performance in OTepp and their overall transition to practice. The Person-Environment-Occupation (PEO) model provided a framework to contextualise this theme. CONCLUSION: IEOTs will benefit from individualised learning needs assessments and education plans to address their specific needs. At an international level, the occupational therapy profession must engage in dialogue about the differences between education programs and the resulting implications for the profession. More research is also needed to understand the experiences of IEOTs who withdraw from or do not engage in formal supports.
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