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Level up with VA’s Occupational Therapy Fellowship Programs

As with many people entering a new career field, new and recent occupational therapists often find themselves in a predicament: needing experience to get the job, but needing the job to get the experience.

VA has a solution to that dilemma. Our Occupational Therapy (OT) Fellowship Programs provide fellows the opportunity to learn and practice in a specialized setting to advance their knowledge and skills.

With 19 OT Fellowship Programs in 7 different areas of practice, we look for candidates who have a strong interest in a specialty area and who intend to pursue board or specialty certifications.

Even better, experience in the specific practice area is not a requirement in most cases. That opens the door of possibility for you to elevate your skills within a specialty area.

Specialties and structure

VA OT fellowships are year-long programs with established educational curriculums, targeted clinical training, and purposeful mentored practice.

With these programs, we aim to maximize learning by focusing on advanced-level knowledge and delivery of OT services in a variety of specialty practice areas, including:

  • Assistive technology
  • Gerontology
  • Hand and upper extremity rehab
  • Lymphedema
  • Mental health
  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Physical rehabilitation

Our OT Fellowship Programs provide an excellent place for occupational therapists to gain advanced knowledge and training, and VA fellowship sites have the infrastructure and environment needed to give you high-quality clinical and scholarly learning experiences.

Additionally, the clinical learning environments provided within VA set us apart from other programs, providing access to state-of-the-art equipment, innovative programming, and an organizational culture committed to high reliability care and continuous improvement.

Through these programs, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills to provide evidence-informed, Veteran-centric, occupation-based care. Additionally, the opportunity to be a fellow within VA allows you to see the value of supporting the nation’s Veterans and active-duty service members.

The combination of educational and clinical experiences—coupled with mentorship from experts—make these programs far more valuable than the one year of typical practice you might experience as a new graduate.

“These programs propel fellows toward delivering specialty and advanced practice by giving them knowledge and expertise they might not otherwise have the opportunity to gain,” said Katherine Litman, MOT, OTR/L, coordinator of the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital Neurorehabilitation OT Fellowship Program in Tampa, Florida. 

Systems of support

Each fellowship program has multiple layers of support, from national offices all the way down to local facilities.

  • At a national level, the Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA) provides oversight and support for all VA training programs.
  • Each facility also has a designated education officer or associate chief of staff for education. These are leaders within the facility who are focused on supporting local clinical training programs.
  • Finally, each OT Fellowship Program has a program coordinator who is a licensed occupational therapist with at least 3 years of experience and expertise in the focused area of practice.
  • Additionally, each program provides opportunities for close mentorship experiences from clinicians who are also experts in the specialty area in which the program is focused.  

These layers of support for OT fellows and VA OT Fellowship Programs are unlike that of any other organization, offering exceptional quality and delivery for participants.  

“Mentorship was the primary reason I chose to pursue a fellowship versus entering the workforce as a new graduate,” explained Brighid Rebolledo, OTD, OTR/L, a former fellow of the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital Neurorehabilitation OT Fellowship Program. “Participating in the fellowship program offered me invaluable mentorship that supported my growth toward advanced practice.”

Work at VA

For new or recent OT graduates, as well as seasoned clinicians seeking to advance their career in a specialty area, OT Fellowship Programs at VA are an excellent opportunity to elevate your future practice.

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