Nancy Dahlinger has been named director of the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Program at Newman University.
Dahlinger graduated from Kansas University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy (OT). She went on to earn her master’s degree in education from Newman in 2010.
Working in a variety of OT settings including rehabilitation hospitals, outpatient clinics and school systems has provided her with a vast amount of knowledge of the profession.
Her career at Newman began in 2001 where she worked as a part-time academic fieldwork coordinator for the OT program. At this time, the OT program was a four-year bachelor’s degree program. The program closed in 2006. The Occupational Therapy Assistant two-year associate’s degree program opened in 2007.
The OTA program at Newman accepts up to 25 students per year and provides them with the skills needed to facilitate the development of an extensive range of disabilities. They work with patients who are ill, injured or born with a disability
As an academic fieldwork coordinator, Dahlinger built relationships with clinics, hospitals, schools and more from coast to coast in order to place students for clinicals. During their 16 weeks of clinicals, students experience real-world training as an OTA.
As occupational therapists and assistants, Dahlinger said, “Our main purpose is to get people back to doing their meaningful and purposeful activities.” She believes the passion that the faculty and adjuncts have for the OT profession helps students envision the life-changing work they will do.
Although she will miss seeing familiar faces at the fieldwork sites, she looks forward to her new responsibilities as director.
“Newman has a really good reputation in our community for preparing our students quite well for their clinical experiences and I want to continue that,” Dahlinger said.
At Newman, “The three-year average pass rate for the NBCOT (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy) exam is 97.6 percent,” said Dahlinger. She knows that as a director it is important to provide vision and leadership for the department.
One of Dahlinger’s biggest responsibilities as director will be maintaining accreditation. The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) criteria standards rack up to more than 100 items. Their next visit will be in five years and preparation has already started.
On top of that, Dahlinger has added an extra class to her schedule for the next two semesters. “I am looking forward to teaching a couple of new classes and mentoring our new academic fieldwork coordinator (Melissa Smith) this year,” said Dahlinger.
“I am excited about the future of the occupational therapy profession and all the changes that are coming in the next 10 years,” said Dahlinger, “Change can be very invigorating!”