Three things to know about occupational therapy leadership

By Anne Riker Garlington

Struckmeyer, Linda
Dr. Linda Struckmeyer

Linda Struckmeyer, Ph.D., OTR/L, a clinical associate professor and the doctoral capstone coordinator in the department of occupational therapy, was recently selected to join the OT Leaders & Legacies Society.

The society is comprised of more than 100 respected senior and mid-career occupational therapists who have demonstrated their leadership abilities and skills through service in a variety of civic and professional organizations. The purpose is to promote the profession through a variety of projects designed to help support and encourage leaders in the profession, including those that honor OT history and social contributions.

Struckmeyer serves as a mentor to undergraduate and graduate students. She mentors academic fieldwork coordinators and doctoral capstone coordinators through the American Occupational Therapy Association, or AOTA, Academic Education Special Interest Group mentoring program. She also serves as the secretary on the AOTA Board of Directors and has served as chair of the Florida Occupational Therapy Education Consortium.

Struckmeyer shared her thoughts about leadership in the field of occupational therapy.

What does it take to be a great leader in OT?

A great leader must have commitment, flexibility and be willing to compromise for what is best for the group. After over 30 years of clinical occupational therapy practice working with individuals across a wide variety of settings, I’ve learned these points are crucial.

Helping students achieve their goals where they can turn around and help people in their lives is why I get up and come to work every day.

Who was a great OT leader at UF?

The UF department of occupational therapy has been led by a long line of nationally recognized OT professionals, including Lela Llorens, Ph.D., who joined the UF faculty in 1971, and is believed to be the first African American occupational therapy chair in the country. In a 2008 interview, she said she was attracted to the profession because she wanted to help people and was grateful the field offered leadership roles where other health disciplines fell short.

What makes a successful occupational therapist?

• Occupational therapists need to be able to plan and yet be flexible.

Often there is a balance between your plan and what gets accomplished. Patients may respond to treatments in different ways and the occupational therapy practitioners must be prepared to recommend alternative options to accomplish the goal.

In addition, OTs need to be sure to balance their work life and home life. Take time to care for yourself in addition to your patients.

• They should have passion for working with people and be willing to advocate for patients.

It is important to be passionate about your patients and be able to advocate at all different levels such as meeting with corporate executives who make staffing decisions or for productivity standards. At times, OTs may need to lobby the legislature to make sure that their services are being reimbursed.

• OTs should desire to help patients participate in the things they want to do.

Patients may have ideas of their own which may not be what the OT feels is important. For example, if the patient wants to learn how to golf again and the OT doesn’t like golf, they still need to help the patient return to what the patient wants to do. It’s all about the patient returning to their way of life the best they can.