Author ORCID Identifier

Frances J. Calingo: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9812-1278

Olivia M. Biller: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9832-1838

Maclain Capron: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7637-0786

Tina M. DeAngelis: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5686-8333


Background: Due to the global novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many students in entry-level occupational therapy programs faced changes to their daily roles, habits, and routines. To understand beliefs about OT practitioner roles in a public health crisis, a cross-sectional study was designed to understand occupational therapy students (OTS) and occupational therapy assistant students (OTAS) volunteer activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: A survey was developed and distributed in April 2020, and closed after five weeks. Quantitative data was analyzed in Statistical Package for Social Sciences (Version 27) and open response data was categorized in Microsoft Excel.

Results: Respondents included students from entry-level OT/OTA accredited programs such as occupational therapy doctorate, entry level master’s, bachelor’s to master’s and occupational therapy assistant (n=853, 2.8% of OTS/OTAS population). Nearly all respondents endorsed that OT practitioners have at least one role during a crisis (n=851, 99.8%) and after a crisis (n=848, 99.4%) like COVID-19. A minority of students volunteered in response to COVID-19 (n=60, 7.0%). Volunteer activities addressed clinical work, food insecurity, loneliness, social justice, healthcare workers, COVID-19 transmission, and personal protective equipment. Inspirations for volunteering included altruism, justice, personal responsibility, changes to routines, calls to action, and fulfilling obligations.

Discussion: It is hoped that this study serves as a springboard for future research related to the OTS/OTAS response to COVID-19. Educators can prepare students for future public health emergencies by exposing them to information regarding OT’s role in disaster management.