Occupational Therapy in North Dakota

North Dakota’s occupational therapists help people function as well as they can and live as independently as they can. Their focus is holistic, their scope of practice broad. Today’s OTs are educated at at least the master’s level. Their programs are rich in fieldwork experience, and they have an extensive knowledge and skills base to draw from.

Occupational therapists supervise licensed occupational therapists and unlicensed aides.

Becoming an Occupational Therapist in North Dakota

Licensure is mandatory. North Dakota requires that prospective OTs graduate from programs with recognized accreditation. The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) is the U.S accrediting agency. International candidates will need to have comparable education and experience.

Programs may award master’s degrees or doctoral degrees. Doctoral programs typically place greater emphasis on individualized in-depth exploration and scholarly work than master’s programs do. Doctoral programs are required to include a capstone project; this may take different forms. Some master’s programs have a scholarly project.

The graduate will take a board examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy; this same examination is in use around the nation. A North Dakota license applicant will also complete a self-assessment of state laws and rules.

Some occupational therapists pursue adjunct certifications like hand therapy once they are out in the field.

Occupational Therapist Roles

Occupational therapists help people develop, maintain, or regain the skills they need for self-care, daily living, work or school, leisure, and social participation. They are concerned with multiple systems, including sensorimotor, neuromuscular, cognitive, and psychosocial. They are also concerned with the environments in which people live, work, and play.

Treatment or “intervention” may take any of many forms and may include making environmental modifications and helping people use adaptive and orthotic devices.

OTs serve a wide population. Two University of North Dakota students recently completed a scholarly project on the OT role in preventing re-hospitalization of people with cancer histories. They cited research that functional limitations played a significant role in creating situations where re-admission was necessary. This is also the case with many other illnesses.

Children often receive services; pediatric conditions vary a lot in complexity. CHI St. Alexius Health notes the following among the conditions for which OT may be utilized: cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down Syndrome, plagiocephaly, autism, sensory processing disorders, and issues arising from premature birth. OT can help with hand strength and hand eye coordination, auditory and touch sensitivities, and even restrictive eating patterns.

North Dakota code specifically references mental illness and psychosocial dysfunction among the conditions for which OT therapy may be sought.

North Dakota’s Occupational Therapist Employers

Many organizations employ OTs. Among them are major health systems like Sanford Health. OTs may have inpatient or outpatient duties. CHI St. Alexius Health has eight North Dakota locations.

Clinics are among the most common work settings. Some are pediatric-only. Pediatric Partners has facilities in Fargo and Bismarck. The organization notes on its website in 2019 that it has been selected for the North Plains 50 Best Places to Work list two years running.

Nursing facilities are another very common setting. OTs provide services to short-term residents as well as long-term ones. Some individuals receive intensive therapy during the home to hospital transition period. Elm Rehab and Care Center (Fargo) and St. Gabriel’s Community (Bismarck) are among the many facilities that provide these services. Elm Rehab and Care Center is an Eden Alternative facility. Short-term rehabilitation services are provided by Pro Care.

Some OTs are part of innovative programs; some even develop them or bring them to town. HIPP Kids Therapy has been in the news more than once. The practice involves horses in the OT process. There is more going on here even than human-animal bonding. The founding OT states that the motion can have a brain-activating affect and can help a child organize sensory information.

North Dakota Occupational Therapist Salary and Career Outlook

North Dakota occupational therapists averaged $67,420 in 2018. Most OTs made between $50,440 and $88,660, though 10% fell on either end of this range.

The location quotient is highest in the Bismarck metropolitan area; this is based on OT employment as a fraction of total employment. The state as a whole has a location quotient a little above the national average and a little above that of neighboring states, though there are parts of North Dakota where OTs are few and far between.

The North Dakota OT profession has been projected to experience 22.9% occupational growth between 2016 and 2026.

Occupational Therapist Programs in North Dakota

The University of North Dakota’s Department of Occupational Therapy has a long history, dating back to the mid-1950s. The master’s program is fully accredited. The doctoral program commences in 2019; it has ACOTE candidacy status. The University of North Dakota has for some years published student projects. They represent diverse practice areas; among the recent topics are nursing home environmental modifications for residents with neurocognitive conditions and life skills programming for youth who have been homeless.

The University of Mary-Bismarck is also transitioning to the practice doctorate. In 2019, the doctoral program holds candidacy status. The University of Mary OT program has a standard admission program and an early assurance program. High school seniors can apply if they meet rigorous standards; a select group of students can receive assurance that they will be admitted when the time comes, provided that they earn at least a 3.25 in college and meet standards for regular admission.

Student and Professional Resources

Licensing information is available from the North Dakota State Board of Occupational Therapy Practice (https://www.ndotboard.com) .

The North Dakota Occupational Therapy Association is the state professional association (https://www.ndota.com).