Coronavirus: What OT Practitioners Need to Know

We are all facing unprecedented challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the past year has brought a great deal of uncertainty in our communities. TNOTA is committed to advocating for our members and promoting best practices for occupational therapy in Tennessee. Our goal is to help equip OT practitioners and students to make informed practice decisions during this time of uncertain and rapidly changing information.


Continuing Education & TNOTA Events

Like the rest of our state, TNOTA has begun re-instating face-to-face events with COVID precautions in place. We will continue to host virtual events as well as some in-person meetings and events, evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on the most current state and local guidelines, as well as the ability to physically distance participants. We are continuing to work with our partners at AspireOT to host high-quality OT education content online.  



Telehealth FAQs

Read up on the latest telehealth guidance from AOTA. 

Can occupational therapy telehealth services be provided in the state of Tennessee?

Yes! With the passage of the recent changes to Tennessee's OT practice act, OTPs are now able to practice telehealth in the state of Tennessee permanently. We are currently awaiting the state licensure board to promulgate rules related to telehealth practice for OTPs in Tennessee. Read more details on on our legislative update page or on our advocacy resources page


Can occupational therapy providers licensed in Tennessee provide telehealth services to clients in other states without a license in that state?

No. The occupational therapy provider must be licensed in the physical location of the client unless a state has a specific exemption specified.  


Are telehealth services reimbursed by insurance? 

Pre-pandemic, the answer to this was largely no.  However, many states are implementing emergency changes in this policy for both public and private insurance providers. In April, Governor Lee issued an executive order urging all health insurance carriers to provide coverage for telemedicine, and to remove prior authorization requirements. While many insurance providers are covering OT services via telehealth, this varies based on provider rules. TNOTA's advocacy team has compiled a current list of telehealth coverage in Tennessee, updated 7/6/2021. This list will be updated as changes are made. With the passage of the recent telehealth bill, most healthcare providers' telehealth services are required to be covered similarly to in-person services; however, due to the wording of the bill, it is not yet clear if OT falls under this payment parity mandate. 

Updated June 29, 2021

Tennessee's Executive Order providing for coverage of Tenncare-funded telehealth services will expire on June 30, 2021. This means that Tenncare plans will no longer cover telehealth services starting July 1, 2021. 



 Now is a critical time for us to advocate for ongoing coverage for OT telehealth services.

See more about how you can help advocate for telehealth coverage on our advocacy page.

See also: Healthline article, "Does Medicare Cover Telehealth?"



 TNOTA's Lobbyists: Working for you!

TNOTA employs a lobbying firm that closely monitors legislation and executive orders from our Tennessee government.

Read the latest update here from Capitol & 5th Public Strategies. 



AOTA Resources 

AOTA has been working diligently to both advocate as well as develop specific resources for OT in the age of COVID-19.   We are sharing AOTA's info on our social media accounts and encourage our members to go directly to AOTA website for the most updated information.  As policies and procedures are changing rapidly, AOTA is your best resource for updated content.

AOTA has posted a valuable article on their website, detailing OT's role in providing care during a pandemic.

AOTA maintains and regularly updates a list of state actions affecting OT in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. See their latest update here (updated June 2021).  



Other Helpful Resources 

Additionally, several organizations have been putting together state-by-state resources that we wanted to share in case you find it helpful: has a helpful resource outlining the connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and addiction:


Stateside has created a chart with state legislative actions, executive agency actions, gubernatorial actions, and local government actions related to the outbreak of the coronavirus:


The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHPCA) has created a chart of state actions taken to remove policy barriers to telehealth utilization:


The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has compiled state legislation responding to COVID-19:


The Council of State Governments (CSG) has also compiled state-by-state resources such as executive orders, legislative sessions by state, state COVID-19 websites and resources, other mandates, etc:


The Commonwealth Fund has an interactive map of state actions to address COVID-19 coverage by private insurance:


The Kaiser Family Foundation has a similar interactive map in its suite of state-by-state maps on state data and policy actions to address the coronavirus:



Guidance for OT/OTA Students 

We know this is also an unprecedented time for students and educators alike. Each college and university is making individualized decisions regarding face to face classes and fieldwork. We recommend you frequently monitor your student email account and communicate with your faculty as questions arise. Taking campus-based classes to a virtual format requires flexibility from all parties. Now is a time for patience, flexibility, and grace as things are changing on a daily basis.  Students should know that faculty are diligently working to make this transition to alternate teaching methods as seamless as possible for students. TNOTA will continue to support educators and students in whatever way we can throughout the duration of this pandemic. TNOTA will post student-specific resources and updates on our student page



Unemployment and Job Security in the Age of Coronavirus 

TNOTA and AOTA are working diligently to advocate for our profession during these trying times. We recognize that a significant number of OT practitioners in Tennessee are contract workers or hourly employees at risk of losing their jobs during this crisis. The State of Tennessee has expanded unemployment benefits due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Get more information on the state's unemployment website. In the meantime, know that your state and national associations are working tirelessly to protect our profession and our practitioners through these uncertain times. 



Coping with Covid-19 Anxiety 

There are an abundance of resources available for stress management and coping with the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves. Our profession was born out of our unique ability to problem solve in the face of national public health crises.  In our earliest days as a profession, our founders' response to unaddressed mental health needs demonstrated the value of health and healing through occupation.  In response to WW1, reconstruction aides solidified OT's value by addressing the physical and mental health needs of our soldiers. We are a profession built on the ability to adapt and overcome barriers despite all odds.  COVID-19 will be another chapter in our history books. Future students may read about us and how the OT practitioners in this age adapted, overcame, and found creative new ways to meet society's needs. 

There is no doubt that all of us are likely facing both personal and professional challenges in the face of COVID-19.  Take this time to apply our OT values to yourself, to your family, to your co-workers. Our habits, routines, and roles are all off and being redefined right now. The value of occupation and finding meaning through occupation is crucial for ourselves and our clients right now.  

My questions to us as a profession right now are:

  • What strategies do you have for your clients that you may be needing yourself right now? 

  • Could you pick your favorite OT theory and make a COVID-19 intervention plan for yourself or family this week?  

  • How can we use our virtual contexts to promote health and occupation? Remember, social distancing does not mean social isolation.

  • How can OT rise to meet the unique needs of our communities in the face of this current crisis? 

We can do this.  We overcome barriers everyday.  Occupational therapy makes the impossible, possible.  We can do hard things. I believe in occupational therapy and I believe in the goodness of each of us to help each other and our community.  

Stay healthy and safe!


Cindy Blackwell, OTD, OTR/L

TNOTA President