What a year this has been. When I met with my management team on March 12, 2020, to discuss the COVID outbreak, I never imagined that our staff would work remotely through the rest of the year; that test centers would close, stopping students from taking the exam; that fieldwork sites would shut down, delaying graduations; and that we would experience one of the most volatile years we have seen in decades. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, our certificants, for continuing to commit to the highest standards of care during this turbulent time.
NBCOT continues to operate remotely and will do so until it is safe for our staff to return to the office. The safety and well-being of the staff is our top priority. We continue to provide our certificants, students, program directors, and state regulators with the same level of service and support, in the same amount of time, as we did pre-COVID. This year, our external and regulatory affairs team, who typically travel the U.S. each year for outreach, provided virtual presentations to over 118 OT and OTA programs and attended 18 virtual state association meetings and 11 virtual state board meetings. Starting next year, we will provide virtual presentations to you, our certificants, about the benefits available to you for maintaining your national certification. Our staff will answer questions and guide you through the products and services that you can access. Watch for an email with more details coming soon.
Due to the impact of COVID, we extended the renewal deadline from March 31 to May 31 to allow certificants additional time to complete professional development requirements. As of December 3, over 89% of the 2020 renewal class (63,593 certificants) have renewed their OTR® or COTA® certification. In terms of our products, earlier this year, we launched the NBCOT Navigator® app for Apple and Samsung tablets. The app provides you with the ability to utilize the Navigator tools from your tablet and access the tools without an internet connection by using the checkout feature. We also have six new Navigator tools launching in 2021—four for OTRs and two for COTAs. The Navigator is available to you as a benefit of maintaining your national certification. For students, we are currently working on a new and innovative study tool product to add to our StudyPack, which we initially launched in 2018. The new product is expected to launch in spring 2021. We are excited to expand our offering of products to students preparing for the exam.
In October, our board of directors and AOTA’s board of directors approved the Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact legislation. We announced this joint initiative with AOTA in the summer of 2019 to support the development of an interstate licensure compact for the occupational therapy profession. AOTA, NBCOT, and CSG representatives have been meeting with state association leaders and state regulatory board members and staff to discuss the compact legislation and the plans to get bills introduced in 2021. The OT Compact legislation is expected to be introduced in at least 10 states in 2021. To review the compact and read additional resources, please visit OTcompact.org.
In February, I informed the board of directors of my decision to retire. After careful reflection and discussions on the current environment, I have extended my time with NBCOT until fall 2021.
On behalf of the board of directors, NBCOT staff, and countless volunteers, I want to thank you for your continued support of NBCOT and I wish you and your family health, happiness, and all the best for the upcoming year.
Paul Grace, MS, CAE