(Knoxville and Nashville)
Study in the Associate of Science Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program includes topics in biological science, social science, communications, and mathematics. These courses are prerequisites to core occupational therapy coursework. Students will have access and hands-on opportunities to utilize equipment and supplies reflective of current practice in the geographic location. Integrated into didactic learning, Level I Fieldwork experiences will provide exposure and guided practice in clinical environments, schools, and community settings. Following successful completion of academic course work, Level II Fieldwork will provide a full-time learning experience under the supervision of an OT practitioner to develop necessary skills for entry level practice. OTA didactic courses are delivered online and the lab courses are completed on-campus.
OTA Program Mission
The mission of the OTA program is to prepare students with the technical knowledge and professional skills required by current and emerging local, state, and national occupational therapy markets. The program subscribes to high educational standards to facilitate the development of creative problem solving, critical thinking, leadership, and the pursuit of lifelong learning to prepare students with skills to respond to ever changing environments and demands in healthcare. The faculty seeks to foster the growth of compassionate, ethical, and collaborative practitioners who identify the need and value to contribute to the profession and community.
OTA Program Emphasis
The major curriculum threads of the OTA program are interconnected throughout the different levels of coursework and are presented with increasing complexity. The threads reflect the essential skills and qualities necessary to be successful as an occupational therapy assistant. The threads for the OTA program at the Knoxville and Nashville campuses include the following:
- Professionalism- the act of demonstrating appropriate behaviors of conduct representing the occupational therapy profession effectively while promoting the growth and development of the profession.
- Clinical Reasoning- knowing how to learn, reason, think creatively, generate, and evaluate ideas by making decisions and solving problems through reasonable, reflective thinking.
- Interpersonal Skills- the ability to interact effectively with patients, families, colleagues, other health care professionals, and the community in a culturally aware manner.
- Lifelong Learning- the ability to self-direct learning to include the identification of needs and sources of learning; and to continually seek and apply new knowledge, behaviors, and skills related to the profession.
OTA Program Goals
The following goals will represent the hallmark of graduates and will be reflective of the mission of the program and the college as a whole:
- Provide a comprehensive and challenging curriculum that prepares students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to function as an entry level occupational therapy assistant in current and emerging practice;
- Graduate OTAs who reflect a commitment to the profession’s core values and ethics, lifelong learning, and evidence based practice;
- Create a learning atmosphere that is safe and fosters personal and professional growth;
- Provide opportunities to develop clinical reasoning through experiential learning and exposure to a variety of professional experiences through partnerships within the occupational therapy community; and
- Foster development of the students’ interpersonal and collaborative skills to meet the complex challenges in providing quality client-centered care.
The goal of the OTA program at South College Knoxville and Nashville campuses is to develop occupational therapy assistants who possess the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for competent entry-level practice. Upon completion of the program, the graduate should be able to:
- Effectively communicate orally and in writing to meet demands and requirements of the profession.
- Utilize effective interpersonal skills with clients, families, and interdisciplinary team members.
- Review and incorporate evidence-based material to deliver best practice.
- Exhibit conduct that reflects practice standards that are legal and ethical and integrate Principles of Occupational Therapy Ethics, as defined by the AOTA.
- Consistently demonstrate principles and techniques to ensure safety of the patient, oneself, and others.
- Employ the occupational therapy process for service delivery and differentiate the roles of occupational therapy practitioners.
- Respect client diversity, values, and individual preferences during service delivery.
- Analyze activity demands, performance skills, performance patterns, and client factors, within the context of occupational performance.
- Demonstrate competence in administration of selected assessments relevant to the role of an occupational therapy assistant.
- Select, prioritize, and sequence occupations, purposeful activity, and treatment techniques relevant to the goals and interests of individuals served in occupational therapy settings.
- Demonstrate competence in instruction, adapting, and grading of activities and techniques, and modifying environments to meet the needs of clients in their sociocultural context.
- Demonstrate clinical reasoning by prioritizing holistic needs of clients and engaging in creative problem solving.
- Utilize and teach compensatory strategies when desired life tasks cannot be performed.
- Assume roles of leadership and management of occupational therapy services relevant to the role of an entry level occupational therapy assistant.
- Understand federal and state regulations and their effect on delivery of occupational therapy and other health services.
- Demonstrate an awareness of professional and social responsibility, and advocacy including participation in national and state professional organizations, and community service organizations.
- Explore and utilize community resources to promote occupational function of clients in least restrictive environments.
Role of the Occupational Therapy Assistant
Occupational Therapy (OT) improves independence and quality of life for people of all ages. OT practitioners provide intervention in diverse areas including health care, education, and community-based programming. Occupational therapy assistants (OTA) work in collaboration and under the supervision of occupational therapists to serve individuals or groups who experience impairment or loss of ability to participate fully in meaningful occupations due to genetic or chronic conditions, illness, trauma, and psychosocial impairment. OTAs restore the individual’s ability to accomplish tasks they need, want, or expect to do through participation in goal-directed activities.
Knoxville OTA Program Accreditation Status:
The South College Occupational Therapy Assistant - Knoxville campus program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929.ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-6611 and its Web address is www.acoteonline.org. 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). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state. Accreditation was granted for 7 years with the next site visit to be scheduled during the 2025/2026 academic year.
Note: A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure. (www.acoteonline.org)
Nashville OTA Program Accreditation Status
The South College - Nashville Occupational Therapy Assistant program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-6611 and its web address is www.acoteonline.org. 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). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Accreditation was granted for 7 years with the next site visit to be scheduled during the 2027/2028 academic year.
Note: A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure. (www.acoteonline.org)
Program Admission Requirements - Knoxville/Nashville Campus:
- Apply to South College following the general admission procedures outlined in the South College Catalog.
- Applicants interested in this program are required to visit the college and meet individually with an admissions representative and program faculty to ascertain if their goals can be met by the College. Admissions Contact Information: Knoxville (865) 251-1800 / Nashville (629) 802-3000 (OR) https://www.south.edu/admissions/
- Complete the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program Application and submit form to the OTA Department Chair immediately after completing the general admission requirements to South College.
- Meet at least one of the following admission requirements to the OTA Program:
- Present documentation of a score of 19 or higher on the ACT Assessment examination
- Meet minimum score requirements required by the OTA program (333 score on Verbal & 323 score on Quantitative) on all sections of the on the college entrance examination
- Present documentation of a 900 combined score or higher on the SAT I examination
- Have earned transfer credit of 27 quarter/18 semester hours of college level courses with a cumulative grade point average with at least a 3.0 GPA or better
- Achieve a GPA of at least 3.0 for the program’s pre-requisite general education courses (MAT 1100, ENG 1201, BIO 1110, BIO 1120, ENG 1211, BIO 1130, BIO 1140, and AHS 1010).
- Complete all required general education core courses and earn the minimum grade required below*
Prerequisite courses required for program admission:
- MAT 1100, ENG 1201, ENG 1211, and AHS 1010- A minimum grade of “C” or better is required for each of these courses.
- BIO 1110, BIO 1120, BIO 1130, and BIO 1140- A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required for these Anatomy and Physiology courses/labs) and must be achieved on the first or second attempt unless otherwise approved by the OTA Program Chair.
General academic courses required for program completion:
- PSY 1811, COM 1261, and an approved Humanities Elective (see the Catalog for course options) - a minimum grade of “C” or better is required for each of these courses.
- Attend a required information/advising session provided by the OTA Faculty. Faculty members from the OTA program will provide quarterly information/advising sessions for students each quarter. OTA faculty members will be available during these sessions to provide an overview of the program, review student applications, answer questions, make recommendations, and guide the students through the application phase as needed. Students applying to the program are required to attend at least one of these information sessions; however, anyone interested in learning more about the OTA program may attend.
- Submit the Applicant Checklist Form with Signature of Understanding.
- Submit proof of at least eight (8) observation hours in a minimum of two (2) different settings offering occupational therapy using the form provided by the OTA program. *
- Be able to commit to full attendance and participation in a rigorous educational program which requires class attendance, significant out-of-class preparation time, and clinical education assignments off-campus.
The Occupational Therapy Assistant faculty members will begin reviewing all admission requirements and materials listed above on February 20 for Spring Quarter admission and on August 15 for Fall Quarter admission to the OTA program. Applications to the program after the deadline dates will be reviewed if seats are available for the cohort.
- Knoxville - The OTA program admits to the major curriculum twice per year for Spring quarter and Fall quarter, dependent upon qualified applicants.
- Nashville - The OTA program admits to the major curriculum once per year in the Fall quarter.
OTA Final Selection Process and Confirming Admission:
- Applicants that successfully complete the above steps are considered “candidates” for the program and are eligible to enroll in the Quarter 3 OTA courses: (OTA 1315 Introduction to Occupational Therapy, OTA 1325 Analysis of Human Occupations, and OTA 1335 Applied Kinesiology) to be considered for full acceptance into the program. Students may take these OTA classes a maximum of two times. Students must pass each OTA courses with a “C” or better on the first attempt. Students must pass each of these OTA courses with a “B” or better on the second attempt. *
- Students are required to attend a comprehensive orientation prior to the start of OTA courses. A detailed OTA student handbook outlining policies/procedures will be provided and reviewed during orientation.
- (An OTA faculty member will assume responsibilities of advising students who are enrolled in OTA core curriculum courses)
(*) Each of these areas is used to rank applicants for full program admission. If minimum standards outlined above are met by more applying students than available seats for the cohort, these rankings determine program admission. Additional course work pertaining to the occupational therapy assistant program is considered. Students with the top 30 scores for Knoxville/top 20 for Nashville on the ranking system will be fully accepted into the program and advance to the Occupational Therapy Assistant courses in Quarter 4.
Students must assume the ultimate responsibility for successfully meeting all criteria necessary for enrollment into OTA program courses. All prospective students seeking admission to the OTA program must follow the same College and programmatic process outline in the OTA application handbook. All required forms for admission are provided in the OTA application handbook.
OTA Program Policies and Procedures
South College is an equal opportunity college open to any qualified individual without regard to race, religion, sex, age, color, national or ethnic origin, or disability. Pursuant to all applicable federal anti-discrimination laws and regulations, South College does not discriminate against any of the protected categories of individuals in the administration of policies, programs, or activities. This non-discriminatory policy includes admission policies, loan programs, employment practices, and all other college-administered programs.
South College does not discriminate on the bases of disability and is committed to full compliance with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.
Applicants of the OTA program MUST be aware of the following:
- A felony conviction may affect:
- placement in a clinical facility for education
- a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT Certification Examination
- a graduate’s ability to attain state licensure
- a graduate’s ability to attain future employment within the profession
- Failure to produce proof of the following and the results in a timely manner may prevent completion of fieldwork courses and result in termination from the program:
- Negative TB test
- Hepatitis B vaccination or waiver
- Health release to participate in clinical internships. A physician’s certification that a student is in good general health.
- Other immunizations, such as MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella)
- Annual flu vaccine - if required by the clinical site
- A current CPR certification
- Criminal background check
- Negative Drug Screen
- Health Insurance or signed waiver
- Criminal Background Check and Drug Screening results may negatively affect an applicant’s acceptance into the OTA program and clinical facilities can deny participation in a clinical rotation. This may result in failure of a course and dismissal from the program. When participating in clinical experiences, South College OTA students will be held to the policies and procedures of the facility - including those related to drug testing.
- Students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at South College must complete clinical fieldwork experiences during the curriculum to successfully graduate and obtain the required licensure/certification credentials to work as occupational therapy assistants. To ensure patient safety and security, students must complete a criminal background check preceding full acceptance into the OTA program. An additional background check and/or drug test may be required prior to beginning clinical experiences in the program.
Prospective students transferring credit into the OTA program should refer to the policy for transfer of credits and consult with the Dean of Academic and Student Services regarding transferability of credit. There is no guarantee that transfer credit will be given for any courses.
Functional Standards For OTA
A candidate for the Occupational Therapy Assistant program must have abilities and skills in five categories: sensory, motor, cognitive, communication, and behavioral/social. Students must be able to perform the following essential functions in an independent manner, with or without reasonable accommodation. Considerations for students with documented disability will be given on an individual basis.
- Sensory: Candidates must have functional visual acuity and perception to handle occupational therapy media, lectures, and laboratory activities. Auditory reception is required to participate in lectures and laboratory activities and interpersonal exchanges with instructors, fieldwork supervisors, and clients. Tactile sensation must be functional for activities requiring direct manipulation, such as range of motion or transfer training.
Gross Motor and Fine Motor: Candidates must have environmental accessibility to participate in tours and/or fieldwork experiences at clinical sites. Degrees of gross motor skills for running, jumping, balancing, reaching, lifting, lifting (up to 50 pounds), and bending for games and sensory integration equipment, manual muscle testing, range of motion, and transfers are required for laboratory and fieldwork experiences. Long periods of sitting, standing, or moving are qualities of work components that are expected during participation in full-time academic and fieldwork experiences. Manual dexterity and strength adequate to handle a variety of media and evaluative tools common in the profession is required.
- The above physical requirements are required to participate in the full scope of Occupational Therapy Assistant education and practice. Limitations may require adaptations or modification in school and/or the workplace. Although these modifications/hardships may be made without major hardship or voids in the academic process, there may be more stringent requirements in selected fieldwork sites, or in the job market. These factors will enter into the student advisement process on an individual basis.
The following standards for cognitive, communication, and behavioral/social essential functions cannot be compromised:
- Cognitive: Candidates must demonstrate skills for measurement, calculations, reading charts and graphs, and scoring. Clinical reasoning, which is the critical skill required of an OT practitioner, is needed in order to make safe clinical judgments; evaluate relevancy of data and prioritize for clinical decision making; identify need for changes in clinical applications; problem solve creative solutions for specific manifestations of behavior, treatment applications, and environmental modifications; generalize theoretical principles to treatment applications; and integrate and apply theory to practice (i.e., identify needs, establish goals, select appropriate interventions, and evaluate outcomes).
- Communication: Candidates must be able to communicate effectively in both academic and fieldwork settings. They must show evidence of effective written and verbal communication skills - such as are needed to interact with instructors, supervisors, and superiors, and patients - individually as well as within a group setting.
- Behavioral/Social: Candidates must possess the emotional health required for full utilization of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, and the prompt completion of all academic and fieldwork responsibilities. The development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients and other members of the health care team are essential. The role of the Occupational Therapy Assistant requires flexibility, compassion, integrity, motivation, interpersonal skills, concern for others, and the ability to function in the face of uncertainties and stress inherent in clinical practice.
If a student voluntarily withdraws, there will be no guarantee that he/she will be readmitted. Re-admission will be based on results of the formal review process, student ranking, scheduling, space availability if the withdrawal occurred before or during the first quarter of OTA classes and on results of the reinstatement process if withdrawal occurred during or after full acceptance into the program. Before voluntary withdrawal from any class, the OTA student should see the OTA Department Chair to determine the best course of action, since withdrawing may interrupt or stop continued education in the OTA program.
Termination from the OTA Program
Grounds for termination from the OTA Program include the following:
- Insufficient academic progress
- Nonpayment of costs
- The conviction and/or known use of, distribution of, or possession of illegal drugs or controlled substances
- Failure to comply with rules and/or Standards of Ethical Conduct
- Non-adherence to Attendance Policy
- Falsification of application to the college or the program
- Unsafe or unethical clinical behavior
Failure to meet the minimum grade required for any course will cause disruption in the program rotation, thus causing dismissal from the program. Any student that is terminated for any reason and wishes to reapply to the program must contact the Department Chair. The Department Chair will then initiate a formal review process. Following the review, students will either remain terminated or be allowed to re- enter during the next rotation on a space available basis. Only under severe mitigating circumstances will a student be reinstated into the program more than one time.
If a student does not complete or pass one or more of the first quarter of OTA classes, he/she does not qualify for “Full” acceptance into the program. A reapplication process must then occur. If their application is over one year old, the student will have to start the entire application process over from the beginning. If it is less than one year old, the student must send written confirmation of their desire to return by the deadline prior to the start of the quarter they intend to retake the classes as well as doing 8 more hours of observation. There will be no guarantee that he/she will be re-admitted. Re-admission will be based on student ranking and space availability. Unless there are mitigating circumstances, only one re-application will be allowed.
OTA Reinstatement Policy
Once “fully” accepted, a student may be dismissed from the South College Knoxville or Nashville OTA program due to insufficient academic progress (making below a “C” in a major curriculum course), nonpayment of costs, the conviction and/or known use of, distribution of, or possession of illegal drugs or controlled substances, failure to comply with rules and/or Standards of Ethical Conduct, non-adherence to attendance polices, falsification of application to the college or the program, unsafe or unethical clinical behavior. The student must then be reinstated into the program if he/she wishes to continue.
The following restrictions apply to reinstatement:
- The student may not be reinstated into the OTA program more than once unless extreme mitigating circumstances exist and are documented.
- If a student is dismissed from the South College OTA program for failing to score a “C” or better in a major specialty class, the student must score a “B” or better in the class or classes if reinstatement is granted.
- The student must pass a practical exam that covers all content from courses he/she passed previously in order to verify maintenance of skills. A score of “C” or better is required to pass.
- If the student wishes to delay reinstatement, he/she may do so for up to one year maximum.