Occupational Therapy Major

College of Health Sciences

Degree MS, Occupational Therapy

Department Chair Grace S. Fisher, EdD, OTR/L

Faculty and Staff

Denis K. Anson, Instructor of Occupational Therapy, BS, MS University of Washington

Gwen Bartolacci, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy and Director of the Weekend Entry Level Master's Program in Occupational Therapy; AS Mount Aloysious College; BS University of North Dakota; MS The Pennsylvania State University; OTD Nova Southeastern University

Lori Anne Charney, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, BS, MS, OTD Misericordia University

Joseph A. Cipriani, Professor of Occupational Therapy, BA Wilkes College; BS College Misericordia; MA Wichita State University; EdD Nova Southeastern University

Elaina J. DaLomba, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, BA Providence College; MSW Tulane University; MS Tufts University

Jennifer Dessoye, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, BS, MS College Misericordia; OTD Misericordia University

Dawn M. Evans, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, BS and MS College Misericordia, OTD Misericordia University

Grace S. Fisher, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy; BA Wilkes College; Post-Baccalaureate Certificate University of Pennsylvania; MS College Misericordia; EdD Temple University

Kathleen Hughes-Butcher, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, BS, MS Misericordia University

Ellen McLaughlin, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy and Director of the Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program; BS and MS College Misericordia; EdD Rutger's University

Lalit J. Shah, Professor of Occupational Therapy, BS University of Bombay; MS College Misericordia; EdD Nova Southeastern University

Orley Templeton, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy, BS, MS Boston University; OTD Misericordia University

Since 1985, the occupational therapy department has been preparing occupational therapy practitioners to utilize theory-based, occupation-focused assessment and intervention strategies to assist the individual in improving functional performance. Recently, the curriculum has been updated to reflect its focus on occupation, evidence-based practice, and involvement in community initiatives. Successful completion of the program results in a professional master of science degree in occupational therapy. Upon successful completion of the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists examination, graduates can expect to practice successfully in a variety of traditional and non-traditional health care delivery models with clients across the lifespan.

Two entry options are available. The weekday program is five years in length and is traditionally selected by recent high school graduates. The weekend program utilizes a three-year model (following a pre-requisite year) with classes meeting on alternating weekends year round. Some weekend classes are offered in a hybrid campus/distance learning format. Applicants for the weekend MS program must possess an earned baccalaureate degree in another discipline.

The five-year weekday program combines the foundation of a liberal arts education with professional occupational therapy coursework to produce a holistic practitioner who has a strong background in the use of occupation and critical inquiry skills to advance the profession. Students achieve a baccalaureate degree in health science along with the master of science degree in occupational therapy. Students may opt to complete additional courses to achieve a B.S. in psychology rather than in health science. Opportunities also exist to complete a minor in another field of study, or an occupational therapy pediatric specialization.. These options enhance student educational preparation.

The program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, 4720 Montgomery Avenue, PO Box 31220, Bethesda, MD, 20814-3425, (301) 652-2682. Graduates of the program are eligible to sit for the occupational therapy examination given by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Successful candidates are able to apply for occupational therapy licensure in the state chosen for employment.


The mission of the Occupational Therapy Department at Misericordia University is to provide an environment that reflects the values and attitudes of justice, mercy, service, and hospitality. The Trinity of Learning is exemplified by experiences in core courses in the liberal arts, the occupational therapy curriculum, and a variety of service-related experiences. We strive to provide quality education through high academic standards, an emphasis on understanding human occupation, and an emphasis on evidence-based practice; aim to offer outstanding professional preparation through specialty tracks and choices of undergraduate majors and minors directly related to the profession of occupational therapy; and work to serve others through an emphasis on volunteering and service learning experiences. We strive to provide educational opportunities in formats that are accessible to both entry level and post-professional students through our weekday, weekend, and post-professional programs. Our ultimate mission is to help students become competent, responsible and involved professionals within their communities.


The individual is a holistic, dynamic system that consists of biological, psychological, sociocultural and spiritual dimensions in interaction with the environment. Occupations are the primary means for individuals to interact with their environment. Occupations are the organizing elements that influence our perceptions and actions in an individualistic and emergent fashion.

The individual possesses an innate drive to explore and accommodate to their environment that is essential to human existence, not only as a means of survival, but also as enabling the process of self actualization (AOTA, 2003). The drive toward action when channeled into occupation is fundamental to development, health, adaptation and satisfaction.

Occupational performance reflects the individual's dynamic experience of engaging in daily occupations within the environment (Law & Baum, 1994). It includes the ability to adapt, cope with the challenges of daily living, and fulfill age specific life roles through goal directed meaningful occupations. The interpersonal relationships within an occupational context also influence performance. Dysfunction in occupational performance is an individually determined state of being defined at any one time by personal, social, and cultural variables (Fidler, 1996). Occupational therapy is the use and application of occupation and interventions to create a balanced lifestyle of occupational performance from the consumers' perspective. These interventions are based on a critical analysis of clinically relevant evidence and research literature. Occupational therapy prevents occupational dysfunction, and maintains, promotes and restores health and occupational performance through engagement in occupation and the use of compensatory, technological and environmental adaptation and modification (Practice Framework, 2002). The therapeutic relationship between consumer and therapist enhances occupational performance.

The education of the occupational therapy student is guided by several beliefs. We believe that individuals construct knowledge based on their unique interpretation of meaningful experiences. Education is not a product to be delivered, but rather is a process to be facilitated with each student. Faculty can encourage the construction of knowledge by setting the stage for meaningful interactions, reflections, and experiences (Howard, et al, 2000), however students are the architects of their own learning. The role of the student is to actively engage in occupations during the learning process, engage in self assessment and collaborate with other students in an increasingly self-directed manner. Involvement of the student in community based initiatives that reflect the values of mercy and service lead to the development of role emergent and creative professionals who are capable of taking the initiative to respond to the needs of their clients and communities. Engaging students in contribution's that add to the profession's body of knowledge provide a means for them to be developers of knowledge rather than merely recipients of information. Through this guided process, the student develops the ability to critically think, develop professional behaviors and integrate the skills necessary to become a life long learner.

Curriculum Design

A liberal arts education provides the essential academic foundation for occupational therapy education at Misericordia University. Within the occupational therapy curriculum, students learn to analyze situations critically, think logically, employ scientific methodology appropriately, express themselves clearly and persuasively in both oral and written media, consider the numerous dimensions of the person during intervention including the physical, psychological, social, cultural, historical, and spiritual components; appreciate the arts and use them in their work; and follow a standard of ethical conduct in their personal and professional lives. These abilities are critical for laying the foundation for the student for transition to an entry level OT practitioner. As students progress through the five-year educational process, they are also socialized into the profession. This involves actively participating in professional organizations, becoming advocates for consumers, and developing a commitment to lifelong learning.

The manner in which the occupational therapy curriculum is delivered is complex. The curriculum design reflects both the mission and philosophy of the occupational therapy department and university as well as the philosophy of the profession.

This curriculum is designed on beliefs the occupational therapy faculty holds in regard to professional education. We hold that these beliefs are in accordance with our philosophy and reflect the program mission and are well incorporated into learning modules and program objectives. These include the following concepts:

A solid foundation in the liberal arts and in normal growth and development allows for a thorough understanding of the dimensions of human performance.

The development of knowledge occurs in a sequential process beginning with basic concepts and techniques and progressing to increasingly more complex constructs and application of these concepts and constructs in practice.

Individuals construct knowledge based on their unique interpretation of meaningful experiences. Faculty can encourage the construction of knowledge by setting the stage for meaningful interactions, reflections, and experiences (Howard, et al, 2000), however students are the architects of their own learning.

Skills of inquiry, critical reasoning and problem solving are essential professional behaviors for practicing occupational therapists.

Continuous examination and definition of one's own values and attitudes are critical steps in the growth and development of professional behaviors and ethical practice.

Development of interpersonal skills and an appreciation of the value of collaboration must be integral to all learning experiences.

The occupational therapy curriculum is designed in such a way as to reflect the values and intent of the profession. Students enter the program at two levels, each based on whether the student applies to the weekday five-year program or the three (plus one pre-requisite year) weekend program. Upon entry to the professional sequence of coursework, students follow a structured, integrated sequence of learning experiences that will prepare them to become entry-level occupational therapists. Based upon the profession's philosophy, the university and program mission, the educational outcome goals of the curriculum, which includes both didactic and fieldwork components (Level I and Level II), provide a learning experience such that: Graduates of the Misericordia University Occupational Therapy Program, will meet the following:

Occupational Therapy Program Curricular Goals:

1. Demonstrate skills necessary to participate in designing and implementing a beginning-level research project.

2. Describe the process an occupational therapist would use to engage in evidence-based practice (EBP).

3. Demonstrate the usage of evidence-based practice.

4. Recognize and respect the significance that incorporating EBP has for individual OT practitioners when interacting with their clients.

5. Demonstrate and analyze the role and importance of participation in occupation throughout the life span.

6. Assess client needs via an occupational profile and an occupational performance analysis.

7. Identify, analyze and apply major tenets from the discipline of occupational science.

8. Plan and implement occupation-focused occupational therapy intervention programs that are culturally relevant, reflective of current occupational therapy practice and supported with appropriate theoretical perspectives.

9. Design and critique programs that promote access to occupational therapy and provide services for individuals, groups and populations, especially the underserved.

10. Demonstrate management and leadership skills that are applicable to a variety of practice settings.

11. Design creative and entrepreneurial ideas for occupational therapy services.

12. Demonstrate skilled collaboration and consultation when dealing with others in the community.

13. Evaluate the process for securing potential funding for pilot, start-up and on-going programs for occupational therapy.

14. Discuss and evaluate ongoing professional development to ensure a level of practice consistent with current and accepted standards.

15. Discuss major historical events and their influence on occupational therapy theory, models and practice.

Curriculum Themes

Three themes provide the overarching structure to the curriculum design. These themes were developed by the faculty following a full curricular review considering years of student feedback, program outcomes and consideration of the new standards and centennial vision. These themes are:

Occupation-Focused Practice

Features of occupation-focused practice include the ability to collaboratively determine the meaning and purpose of an individual's occupational profile, identify needs and priorities, and construct a plan of motivating therapeutic activities. This process, infused with occupations, reflects best practice and results in a more meaningful lifestyle.

Our curriculum is developed to foster an understanding and appreciation of:

the role of occupation throughout the life span

how occupation is used as a means and an end in occupational therapy practice

the value of occupation based assessment and intervention

how the focus on occupational performance improves therapeutic outcomes therapeutic outcomes

Evidence-Based Practice

Evidence-based practice is a collaborative process between therapist and client in which the best available research evidence, in combination with the therapist's clinical experience, is reviewed to determine the most appropriate therapeutic options that support the client's occupational goals. Essential to this is the therapist's ability to recognize and respect the significance that EBP will have for the profession, as well as for the client.

Community Initiative

Community initiatives help to increase access to occupational therapy services for all individuals, groups and populations, especially those underserved. We prepare students to work in emerging practice areas and community settings as well as traditional settings. We desire to instill in our students leadership characteristics for service to the community, including an entrepreneurial spirit, skilled interdisciplinary collaboration and the ability to identify funding resources.

Course Sequences

In order to meet our curricular goals, the sequence of coursework is delivered using a progressive approach. This sequence covers five areas: Liberal Arts & Foundational Knowledge, Individual Development and Occupation, Professional & Community Initiatives, Clinical Performance, Reasoning & Application, and Research & EBP: Strengthening our Knowledge Base. The five interwoven sequences of education are described in more detail below.

Sequence I Liberal Arts and Foundational Knowledge (Core, Cognate, OT 312, OT 313)

Students establish the foundation of knowledge through the completion of all liberal arts core courses, BIO 211 and 212:Anatomy and Physiology, OT 312 Functional Anatomy and OT 313 Applied Neuroscience. The science foundation provides a basis for clinical expertise regarding knowledge of body structures and functions. The liberal arts provide a broad foundation upon which to build the student's professional education. Required courses in psychology and psychopathology provide a further basis from which the student can begin to understand the interaction between the individual, their environment and occupations. OT 312 and OT 313 are placed after sequence II in the curriculum to reinforce the student's ability to apply this knowledge in Sequences III and IV.

Sequence II Individual Development , Environment and Occupation (OT 205, 220, 221, 275, 320, 330, 335)

Students are introduced to the concepts of human growth and development through the two-course sequence exploring the Human Development (OT 220 and OT 221).and concurrently explore the theories and analysis of occupations from the perspective of self and other (OT 205, 275). OT 335 provides a thorough investigation of the influences that the environment may have on occupational performance, and OT 330 introduces the students to the many models and frames of reference that may be used to guide the development of a comprehensive and holistic approach to the client. OT 320 promotes students understanding of impairments and disabilities and their potential influences on occupational performance.

Sequence III Professional and Community Initiatives (OT 103, OT 411, 532, 670, 630)

Students learn the importance of developing professional behaviors and the application of these behaviors to develop individual therapeutic relationships and leadership skills in the community. Professional behaviors are introduced in OT 103, where broad issues about the profession, such as its' standards, ethics and vision for the future are discussed. The Community Based Practice Series (OT 411, 532) provide less structured opportunities for students to create occupational opportunities in non-traditional settings, and to take an active role in the development of their learning. OT 670 assists the student in acquiring the traditional management and supervisory skills necessary in many of today's practice environments, as well as the leadership capacities for entrepreneurial work. OT 630, as a culminating course, requires the student to investigate the professional issues and trends in the profession that will challenge and motivate them as they enter into practice as entry level therapists.

Sequence IV Clinical Performance, Reasoning and Application (OT 405, 407, 460, 511 512, 601, 602)

The development of clinical skills begins in OT 405 and OT 407 where students acquire general competencies in conducting an occupation centered evaluation and assessment process and attaint he entry-level clinical skills that are required to progress through the intervention series in upcoming semesters. The Intervention Series, OT 460, 511 and 512, provide the students with opportunities to integrate prior levels of learning to construct intervention for a variety of clients with an occupation and evidence based approach derived from on theoretical principles. The final application of this sequence occurs during the student's Level II FW experiences (OT 601 and 602).

Sequence V Research and EBP – Strengthening our Knowledge Base (OT 533, 461, 633, 690, 695)

While basic bibliographic, search and information literacy are introduced early throughout the curriculum, the essence of the research series begins in OT 461 where students learn about qualitative and quantitative research designs, grants, and the research process. OT 690 and OT 695 require them to take a research proposal from start to finish, designing a study, collecting data, and analyzing and presenting results. OT 533 begins the evidence based practice components, where students complete and individual EBP review throughout the semester. These skills are later applied at the graduate level, in OT 633, where students work individually, but collaborate online to share resources while they are on Level II fieldwork. This final EBP course results in a project to be shared with the fieldwork site.

Admissions - Weekday five year professional entry-level master's degree program

Students with backgrounds which include good academic performance, diverse extracurricular activity involvement, a history of leadership, and an appreciation for the profession of occupational therapy, who meet the criteria stated below, will be considered for the occupational therapy program.

Successful freshman applicants to Misericordia University's weekday 5 year entry level BS/MS Occupational Therapy program will need to have a minimum high school grade point average of 3.00 and a combined SAT score of 1000 (math and critical reading) with a critical reading score of at least 480. A minimum ACT composite score of 23 may be presented instead of the required SAT scores. If the ACT composite is used, a minimum of 23 in the English subtest and a minimum of 23 in the reading subtest are required.

A high school science background required in biology and mathematics; physics is also recommended.

Applicants for the weekday program must also submit the following:

  1. Two letters of reference.
  2. A 500 word typed statement of personal and professional goals.
  3. By the beginning of the fall of their freshman year, documentation of a full day (6-8 hours) of documented service in a health care setting with a licensed occupational therapist. Applications may be reviewed for admission if this documentation is pending.

Admissions - Transfer into the weekday five-year professional entry-level master's degree

A limited number of applications for transfer to the weekday five-year entry-level BS/MS occupational therapy program may result in acceptance at the freshman and sophomore level, based on space availability, successful completion of appropriate prerequisites, and favorably undergoing a competitive review process.

In order to apply for transfer, applicants will typically hold a minimum collegiate grade point average of 3.0, having completed at least 15 college credits. Potential transfer students with less than 30 college credits must also present: (a) minimum SAT score of 1000 in math and critical reading combined with a minimum SAT critical reading score of 480, or (b) an ACT composite of 23 which includes a minimum of 23 in the English subtest and a minimum of 23 in the reading subtest.

Transfer applicants for the weekday program need to also submit the following:

  1. Two letters of reference.
  2. A 500-word typed statement of personal and professional goals.
  3. By the beginning of the first semester of enrollment, documentation of a full day (6-8 hours) of documented service in a health care setting with a licensed occupational therapist is required. Students may apply and be reviewed for admission without this documentation.

Admissions - Weekend Program Professional Entry-Level Master's Degree

Students who meet the following criteria will be considered for admission:

A baccalaureate degree in another discipline from an accredited program with a minimum of a 3.0 cumulative grade point average.

Admissions candidates for the weekend program are required to submit:

  1. Two letters of reference (at least one from an occupational therapist is highly recommended).
  2. A full day (6-8 hours) of documented service in a health care setting with an occupational therapist by the beginning of studies.
  3. Submission of a 500-word, typed statement of personal and professional goals.
  4. Additionally, all designated candidates must have a successful interview with an occupational therapy faculty member. All applications are competitively reviewed prior to this phase.
  5. Prior to submitting an application, prospective students must complete the following prerequisite courses: PSY 290: Psychopathology, BIO 211 and BIO 212: Anatomy and Physiology I and II, MTH 115: Basic Statistics and PHY 117: Introduction to Physics I.
  6. Prospective students must have a baccalaureate degree in another discipline. Students should not apply if they have not completed a degree. Official transcripts must note that the degree has been conferred.

English Language Proficiency

If English is not your first language, or if English is not the primary language spoken in your home, you must submit the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The following are the minimum score requirements:

Internet-based TOEFL exam (iBT): The Internet-based TOEFL has four subsections, with a grading scale for each section from 1 to 30 (30 being the highest score). Misericordia University will look closely at the score for each section rather than the total score. The minimum scores for each section are as follows:












Students should indicate on the registration form that they wish the test results to be sent directly to Misericordia University. The TOEFL code for Misericordia University is 2087.


Fieldwork education is designed to provide occupational therapy students with opportunities to integrate academically acquired education with practice. It is during the students' experiences in fieldwork that they can learn, practice and refine skills of observation, evaluation, treatment planning and implementation, documentation and communication. In the fieldwork setting, the students begin to define their future role as practicing occupational therapists and can develop the necessary personal and professional skills essential in meeting the demands of this challenging profession.

Level I and Level II Fieldwork is an essential part of an occupational therapy program's curriculum as established by the American Occupational Therapy Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. At Misericordia University, fieldwork education begins in the junior year for a weekday student and ends in the fall semester of the graduate year. For weekend college students, fieldwork education begins in the second year of the program and ends in the spring semester of the graduate year.

Level I Fieldwork is integral to the academic courses offered in the occupational therapy curriculum. There is a Level I Fieldwork experience for each intervention course offered. Experiences in Level I Fieldwork include; observation, interaction with consumers and other professionals, opportunities to experience the intervention process under direct supervision, and evaluation of the student's performance in these areas. The experiential nature of the learning is a hallmark of Level I Fieldwork and carries the expectation of engagement with people in occupation across the life span continuum in a variety of settings. Students are primarily supervised by certified and licensed occupational therapists with at least one year experience. Students may also have the opportunity to be supervised by certified and licensed occupational therapy assistants and a variety of other health care professionals. Students are responsible for all costs incurred that are associated with fieldwork including but not limited to transportation, meals, and dress requirements.

Level II Fieldwork begins after successful completion of all required academic coursework. It is the cumulative educational experience in which students have the opportunity to apply academically acquired knowledge in assessing, planning and implementing occupational therapy intervention programs for consumers in a wide variety of traditional and non-traditional service settings. Students must complete six months of Level II Fieldwork experience and be supervised by a licensed and certified occupational therapist with at least one year of practice experience. Upon successful completion of all coursework, Level I and Level II Fieldwork, the student will qualify to take the NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy) examination. Students are responsible for all costs incurred that are associated with fieldwork including but not limited to living arrangements, transportation, meals, and dress requirements.

Fieldwork Education is managed by the Occupational Therapy Program's Academic Coordinator of Fieldwork Education.

Related Expenses

Additional expenses for occupational therapy students typically include lab fees and a name pin. All students in the final year are required to complete the university-offered certification examination preparation course (including content exams and practice tests) for which there is a fee. As part of professional development, students are expected to become members of the American Occupational Therapy Association and are encouraged to become members of the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association (each Association has reduced student rates; details are available in the occupational therapy office). Students entering the program are required to join the American Occupational Therapy Association, with membership added to student fees. Attendance at professional conferences is encouraged as students continue their lifelong commitment to learning. Students should plan on regular use of a computer for course communications and assignments. There are several state-of-the-art computer laboratories on campus.


Retention requirements for the occupational therapy program can be found in the occupational therapy program guide. Retention criteria for overall GPA, major GPA, and individual course grade minimums vary at different levels of the program. Refer to the occupational therapy program guide for details.


There is no re-admission to the Occupational Therapy Entry Level Master's Program. Students who are dismissed from the program may not re-enter the occupational therapy curriculum.

Graduation Requirement

As a requirement for graduation, all weekday and weekend program occupational therapy students are required to successfully complete the university-offered certification examination preparation course. There is a fee associated with the course.

Degree and Options

Upon successful completion of all undergraduate requirements at the conclusion of the fourth year, students in the weekday program are issued a BS in health sciences and a MS in occupational therapy. Students with bachelors' degrees upon admission to the programs take relevant courses to be issued an MS in occupational therapy. There are several options available to students primarily in the weekday program for their undergraduate degree. Students may opt to earn an undergraduate major in psychology (instead of the BS in health sciences) by taking additional courses and doing some of their fieldwork in a psychiatric setting. A specialization in pediatrics is also offered to students in the traditional weekday program. Minors in several disciplines are also options.

Pediatric Specialization

The specialization track consists of a minimum of 16 credits. 13 credits are required courses and 3 credits are elective.

Required courses:

Course Number

Course Title


OT 220

Human Development through Occupation I


OT 460 or 510

Pediatric Occupational Performance Intervention


OT 430

Sensory Integration


OT 450

Pediatric Assessments


OT 430 is usually offred in the Fall semester, and OT 450 is usually offered in the Spring semester.

Approved elective courses (must take 3 credits minimum):

Course Number

Course Title


CWS 363

Child Welfare Services **


CWS 392

Child Abuse and Neglect **


CWS 393

Child Welfare Laws


PSY 275

Child and Adolescent Psychology


PSY 332

Child Psychopathology *


PSY 325

Autism Spectrum Disorder *


PSY 455

Child Interventions *


PSY 480A

Advanced Seminar


SWK 200

Building Multi-Cultural Competence


TED 322

Assistive Technology


TED 342

Characteristics MPH **


TED 343

Autism **


TED 443

Parent Conferencing


HP 480

Multidisciplinary: Pediatrics


HP 220

American Sign Language


Any other approved course (special topics, international experience, or other type), if approved by advisor and OT department chair.


*These courses (3) meet criteria for either Psych. Major or Minor and Pediatric Specialization Track.

** These classes have pre-requisites in the Psychology, Social Work, or Education curriculum. However, these departments have waived the pre-requisites for students seeking pediatric specialization in OT.