What is a Professional Body?

Someone wishing to become a Licensed Occupational Therapist first is required to earn an Occupational Therapy Degree at an accredited University and thereafter seek admission to practice, i.e. to be LICENSED by the Health Professions Council of South Africa as an OT. It is at this stage that the OT enters the world of practice. In doing so, the OT is accountable to The Regulator in-terms of the LICENSE which has been conferred,

In the world of practice, the OT will choose to either remain a Generalist applying Occupational Therapy Practice across a wide range of applications, accountable in-turn to the Regulator exclusively, or to focus more in one or more specific Fields of Practice, becoming therefore not only accountable to The Regulator for their general practices as an Occupational Therapist, but also to the Professional Body for their performance in-terms of one or more Field of Practice.

The purpose of the Professional Body is to recognise an OT who is able to select one or more Fields of Practice within which the majority of their time has been spent, over a minimum number of years, to be recognised as a Professional Practitioner within.

The Professional Body when assessing the applicant for Professional Recognition will address two areas of qualification, namely whether the applicant is Competent as defined by the outcomes of a particular Designation within that Field of Practice, and whether their Behaviour during the period of applying themselves, can be considered to be Ethical, Acceptable and Professional at all times?

Professional Recognition conferred by a Professional Body

Professional Recognition is conferred by a Professional Body for three years during which time, the Professional Body will hold the Practitioner accountable for their performance and behaviour and especially for their ongoing participation in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) designed to ensure that Practitioners are up-to-date with best practices within each Field of Practice, as well as those common to all Fields of Practice (Generic Competencies). During that period, each Professional Practitioner is accountable for their Behaviour in-terms of a stringent Code of Conduct adopted by the Profession and to-which all Professional Practitioners will be held accountable.

What does it mean to be a Member of a Professional Body?

At the ENTRY level, only Temporary “Associate Members”, i.e. those who are not yet awarded Professional Designation and therefore Professional Practitioner Status, but who have applied for and are in the process of qualifying for such an award, would be considered to be a Member of the Professional Body.

The “Permanent” Membership Levels would be in one of the following three categories of Membership:

  • Novice Practitioner
  • Professional Practitioner
  • Advanced Practitioner

The final Permanent Membership Level would be as a “Master” Professional Practitioner. Whereas the first three Permanent Membership categories are applied for by Occupational Therapists who seek Professional Recognition in one or more of the Fields of Practice, The Master Designation is CONFERRED upon a Senior Practitioner to be nominated by other Professional Practitioners, either for recognition of their contribution across Multiple Fields of Practice for a significant period of time, or within one Field for a protracted period of application. 

Being a Permanent Member of the Professional Body allows the collective Membership to participate in:

  • Electing Representatives and being elected s a Representative, to the various Boards and the Council of the Professional Body
  • Participating in the Annual General Meetings thereby voting and deciding on Rules, Policies and Procedures which would apply across and between Fields of Practice
  • Nominating Master Practitioners for Recognition, across the entire scope of the Professional Body

What does Ethics and Accountability mean within the context of a Professional Body?

A Professional Body is as concerned about the Behaviour of Practitioners which it Designates as Professional Practitioners, as it is about their Competency. A Designation confers recognition that the Practitioner is BOTH Competent and that their Behaviour is Professional.

It is the Code of Ethics developed by Permanent, Professional Members of the Professional Body and adopted as the blueprint for Behaviour of Occupational Therapists, which guides the Professional Body in the STANDARD against which its Members are held accountable against.

Accountability refers to the fact that any Member of the Professional Body who is accused of being in-breach of the Code of Ethics, shall be subjected to an internal process of MEDIATION and possibly remediation if necessary, which if not successful shall result in a process of ARBITRATION which may ultimately result in the Professional Status, initially conferred upon the Practitioner by-way of a Designation, being revoked and withdrawn permanently.

What is the role of a Professional Association in the context of a Professional Body?

Ordinarily a Professional Body is created by one or more Associations which collectively represent the interests either of the businesses operating within the Industry or Sector, or of the employee’s and personnel practicing within that Industry or Sector.

The Association is therefore a collective voice mandated to implement strategies and policy in the best interest of the collective. The Association is run, mandated and governed by its Members who in the case of a Professional Body, are also the individual Members of the Professional Body.

Why is Professional Recognition important?

Recognition of ones Professional Status, via the mechanism of Designation is critically important to the individual Practitioner. It distinguishes those who have achieved a qualification and license to practice but are novices within a Sector, from those who are qualified, practiced and experienced and who deserve to stand out for their personal, professional accomplishments and contribution to their profession.

Ultimately Professional Recognition is a public and transparent statement by Professionals that they are willing and eager to be held to a higher professional standard than those who are unwilling to submit themselves for assessment and designation and the conferment of a Professional Designation which is re-assessed every three years for relevance.

What does the title: Professional Practitioner mean in the World of Occupational Therapy

It means that whatever criteria are established to distinguish a Practitioner at one of three bands of relevance in a Field of Practice of Occupational Therapy, have been met and that the Professional Practitioner is considered to be in good standing when it comes not only to their level of competency and practice but in-terms of their professional conduct and behaviour.

Equally it means that they have committed to a Lifelong Learning Contract with the Professional Body to which they remain accountable, to ensure that their knowledge insight and practices are relevant, up-to-date and globally acceptable.

Who constitutes and Governs the Professional Body

A Professional Body is a Collective Body of individuals who have each achieved Professional Recognition and status within the Designation Framework applied by that Professional Body. These are the ONLY decision makers of policy and procedure who are self-governed and governing in the day-to-day operation of that Professional Body.

What is a Field of Practice in the context of Occupational Therapy

When an Occupational Therapist qualifies, they qualify and are licensed to practice Occupational Therapy across the entire range of applications which because of its breadth will always only be a shallow and sometimes superficial quality of application across such a broad range.

As an OT remains in the Sector and gains invaluable experience over years so the depth of application in aspects of the range of OT becomes apparent and more focused areas of application within that Range begin to emerge and Practitioners tend to remain operating within those narrow areas rather than applying themselves across the entire range. Globally it is recognised that there are in-excess of 21 Fields of Practice whereas in South Africa 13 such Fields of Practice have emerged.

This is not to say that the majority of OT Practitioners do not operate in multiple Fields of Practice. They very definitely do. They simply do not apply themselves across the entire range.

Which Fields of Practice define Occupational Therapy

By National Consultation in Sept 2020 and in Nov 2020 with Membership, the following field of practice were ascertained 

  1. Mental Health 
  2. Physical and Neuro 
  3. Hands and Upper Limb 
  4. Driving and Community Mobility 
  5. Practice Management 
  6. Geriatrics 
  7. Pain Management 
  8. Sensory Integration 
  9. Paediatrics general 
  10. Low Vision 
  11. Vocational Rehabilitation 
  12. Medico-legal 
  13. Academics 
  14. Palliative Care  

What is a Professional Designation?

Each Field of Practice has a Taxonomy or Framework of Professional Designations ordered in 3 bands from Novice / Technical, through to Operational and culminating at the Designation of the Professional Practitioner.

A Designation describes the level and outcomes which the Professional has been assessed against and has been found to have met. It goes further to describe how those Outcomes are assessed and what evidence has been taken into account in such an assessment. That Designation Description also reflects any formal or informal qualifications and training which has been taken into account.

Is a Professional Designation different from a University Qualification?

Yes it is. Whereas a Qualification reflects the training the individual has undertaken and the qualification which has been achieved, the Designation reflects the Competency Level, the years of experience and the quality of the contribution recognised as having been evidenced.

While once earned, the qualification can never be withdrawn, the Professional Designation has a life of three years after which time there is no guarantee that it will be re-issued unless specific criteria relating not only to Continuous Professional Development, but ethical and responsible behaviour, is evidenced. 

Ultimately however that Designation reflects that with such evidence, the individual has acted as an accountable, responsible and Professional Practitioner at all times.