Coronavirus: What OT Practitioners Need to Know


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We are all facing unprecedented challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the past few months have 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

We have moved all TNOTA events to virtual meetings until further notice. We will evaluate events on a case-by-case basis into the summer. 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, for now. While our current practice act does not explicitly address telehealth, Governor Lee's Executive Order 50 extends previous executive orders (15, 36) which gives temporary allowances for all health care providers to provide telehealth.

The TN board of occupational therapy recently provided clarification on the provision of OT telehealth services in Tennessee. 

Per the board's legal counsel,

"OTs may only practice telehealth per the Executive Order [15/36], as there are no rules in the practice act regarding OT telehealth.  While OTs are considered healthcare providers under 56-7-1002 of the Tennessee Code, this particular telehealth statute requires the promulgation of rules regulating telehealth by the appropriate board. Subsection 7(b) of 56-7-1002  states:
(7) “Telehealth provider” means a healthcare services provider engaged in the delivery of healthcare services through telehealth.
(b) Healthcare services provided through a telehealth encounter shall comply with state licensure requirements promulgated by the appropriate licensure boards. Telehealth providers shall be held to the same standard of care as healthcare services providers providing the same healthcare service through in-person encounters.
At this time, the OT Board has not promulgated any specific rules regarding the requirements for telehealth and it is not specifically addressed in Tennessee’s practice act.  Accordingly, the only authority that permits OT practice of telehealth is the Governor's executive order [15/36]. If the executive order is not extended, OTs will have to cease telehealth practice in TN."

Since our practice act is silent on telehealth, once Executive Order 50 expires on August 29, OT practitioners will no longer be able to provide telehealth services in Tennessee under our licensure laws. TNOTA is working to advocate for expediting the addition of telehealth into our practice act. Visit our advocacy page to stay updated on the latest advocacy efforts to extend telehealth privileges for OT practitioners. 


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 6/10/2020. This list will be updated as changes are made. 

Many of these allowances for telehealth coverage are temporary. 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.



 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 from Capitol & 5th Public Strategies.



Coronavirus Resources 

Governor Bill Lee and the State of Tennessee are posting regular updates regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, including executive orders and policy changes that may affect occupational therapy in Tennessee. Check the State of Tennessee's website for a full list of updates. 

On April 24, Governor Lee published his "Reopening Tennessee Responsibly" plan, which includes safeguarding protocols and guidance for business owners, including healthcare facilities. 


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 is also compiling a list of state actions affecting the practice of OT in response to COVID-19.    


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 OTs 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