Breaking into a new area of practice can be a daunting undertaking. Unless provided with direct access to an academic learning opportunity or mentoring relationship in the realm of women's health, most occupational therapists are unclear as to how to proceed in this area of specialization. There are a number of ways to get educated on the topics that pertain to the WH agenda. One, is to do your research. With web-based access to professional databases and evidence-based literature, the potential for self-education is limited only by the individual's confidence in their ability to discern and synthesize the information that they are consuming.
For the busy healthcare professional that does not feel they are capable of investing the necessary time and energy into an independent query of research, a plethora of organized online and on-site learning opportunities exist. Many continuing education providers have created certification programs that substantiate the breadth of learning that the professional has dedicated to the extent of their practice specialization. Other vendors and providers offer individual training and learning forums. Certification is not required to practice in the domain of women's health, but advanced training in certain areas of specialized practice is required. This is particularly true for specialized areas such as pelvic health, where practitioners are trained in how to perform internal (intra-vaginal and intra-rectal) assessment and intervention strategies.
Why consider a certification?...
The textbook reason for 'why certification adds value' is driven by the systemic healthcare movement to improve QUALITY. Within the greater healthcare system, regulators, certifiers, and accreditors exist as tools to influence quality through the development of standards and guidelines which drive accountability (Joshi, Ransom, Nash, & Ransom, 2014). Accreditation (at the organizational level) and certification (at the individual level) are formal means by which the healthcare industry is able to denote that "a process by which an entity external to the organization providing goods or services evaluates that organization against a set of predetermined requirements or desirable attributes and publicly attests to the results" (Joshi et al., 2014, p. 495).
In short, being certified in a specific facet of healthcare practice means that an outside entity has verified the soundness of evidence-based practice assessment, implementation of care, and quality of outcomes. This adds value to the overall healthcare system by denoting who to trust as experts in a given field, not only by consumers of care, but by the collaborative healthcare team that may be working directly along side of, or referring to such professional areas of practice.
Professional organizations, such as the AOTA, often drive the "development of educational initiatives, tools for providers to incorporate into practice, and certification programs that recognize competence in specific areas" (Joshi et al., 2014, p. 462). As the AOTA does not have an official position statement on the practice of women's health, nor a synthesized certification program to guide practitioners seeking specialization in this area, many professionals are seeking certification from trans-disciplinary educators.
Where to begin?...
The below content outlines various ways and avenues in which occupational therapists are pursuing such specialized education and certifications in women's health topics. It is important to note that 'women's health' is a complex and nuanced domain of healthcare. The included content seeks to online ways in which the OT may be contributing to the realm of women's health via direct components of the OTPF, but said information is not exhaustive in its representation. Additionally, it is not the objective of The Women's Health OT to endorse or promote any organization, course, or educator in the included content. The information provided is strictly offered as a 'starting point' of where to explore the potentials of practice specialization (as there are many that can be considered).
Explore areas of women's health practice by specialty focus:
Joshi, M. S., Ransom, E. R., Nash, D. B. & Ransom, S. B., eds. (2014). The healthcare quality book: Vision, strategy, and tools (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Health Administration Press.