At a key transition point in their studies, occupational therapy students across all USAHS campuses participate in a meaningful ritual, witnessed by family and friends. The OT pinning ceremony marks the end of the classroom portion of their studies and the beginning of their fieldwork. For Residential MOT and OTD students, this happens in their fourth term, and for Flex, in the seventh term.
A longstanding tradition in OT practice, the pin celebrates the diversity of practice areas, the client-centered nature of our practice and the values of our profession.
“It’s an opportunity for faculty to acknowledge our students’ transition from classroom learning to clinical learning,” says Mary Zadnik, ScD, MEd, OTR/L, director of the entry-level OT programs on the Austin campus.
“We celebrate their success so far, and we offer our continued support.”
A Rite of Passage
Watch our OT students walk through the pinning ceremony—and to on to their fieldwork and beyond.
Our pinning ceremonies are held in venues off campus, attended by students’ family members and friends. Our Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) and Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) students participate together, walking on stage one-by-one to receive their pin.
Dr. Zadnik says the pin symbolizes the fact that as you enter OT practice, you continue to carry with you the values and support of USAHS. It’s embossed with the University crest, which pictures:
- An open book, representing academic knowledge and manifestation, supporting the University’s values of lifelong learning and innovation
- A lighthouse, representing light, life and spirituality (our founding campus in Augustine, Florida, is located on a coastal inlet)
- A graduation cap, which represents completing your studies and moving toward practice
- The Vitruvian Man, a symbol of the art and practice of medicine
“The pin represents that the students have the foundational skills and knowledge to be successful as they go forward into practice,” says Erin Schwier, OTD, EdD, OTR/L, director of the entry-level OT programs in San Marcos. “It also symbolizes that faculty members are still going to support our students, even if the students are out on clinical internships and away from the classroom.” During their fieldwork assignments, which range from pediatric OT to adult neurological settings, students stay in contact with faculty through email, text and Facetime, asking questions and getting support.
Taking an Oath
After they receive their pins, the students recite an oath pertaining to the practice of occupational therapy. This oath of ethical practice honors students’ commitment to the core OT values of altruism, equality, freedom, justice, dignity, truth and prudence. It begins: “I will practice occupational therapy with compassion for the vulnerabilities in each of my patients, and I will work to preserve their dignity and promote their health and welfare.” The Oath serves as a guide to students’ decision making as they transition to clinical learning.
“It’s a moment of excitement,” says Maureen Johnson, PhD, OT/L, an assistant professor of OT in San Marcos.
“They’ll be working with real people in real situations and trying to make a difference in the world.”
Hearing from Their Mentors
After guiding students through the Oath, faculty offer words of wisdom and encouragement. “Therapy happens in the points of transition,” Dr. Zadnik tells the crowd. “We meet our clients at their most vulnerable states: At points in their lives of major change where they face an unknown future and unexpected outcome.” Students can help their clients find resiliency and optimism in the face of those challenges, she says.
“This pinning ceremony marks a significant change and transition for you as students,” she continues. “And although change is hard, we believe that we have given you the skills and knowledge to meet your future challenges. It is through this celebratory ritual we would like to offer you our encouragement, belief and trust that you have that capability to continue to meet challenges without us present.”
At the reception that follows the ceremony, students enjoy food and drink and have their picture taken by a professional photographer. “Today was a huge milestone for us,” says Yanni, a fourth-term MOT student in San Marcos. “Now we can really go out there and refine our skills and really make a difference in people’s lives.”
Dr. Schwier says, “You all have worked incredibly hard to get to this point. The hard work does not stop here. We have high expectations for you, but we also believe that each and every one of you is capable of making a tremendous difference in the lives of your future clients and within this profession.”
“So, as you leave the comfort of the classroom for the challenges of clinical practice, remember to live in gratitude, embrace change as an opportunity, accept the challenges that lie ahead, and—celebrate often!”
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers hands-on Master of Occupational Therapy(MOT) and Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degrees. Join a collaborative cohort of peers who learn under the mentorship of expert faculty-practitioners. Practice with mock patients in our state-of-the-art simulation centers and learn anatomy with our high-tech tools. Prepare for clinical practice with patients across the lifespan. The OTD program includes a capstone project and additional coursework in practice leadership and policymaking. Residential (online coursework + in-person labs on weekdays) and Flex (online coursework + in-person labs on weekends)formats are available.
The entry-level occupational therapy master’s degree (MOT) programs on the San Marcos, California; St. Augustine and Miami, Florida; and Austin, Texas, campuses and the entry-level occupational therapy doctoral degree (OTD) programs on the San Marcos, California; St. Augustine and Miami, Florida; Austin and Dallas, Texas, campuses are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is 301-652-AOTA, and its web address is www.acoteonline.org. Visit USAHS MOT Accreditation and OTD Accreditation for more information.
 AOTA, “AOTA 2020 Occupational Therapy Code of Ethics,” The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2020, Vol. 74: https://research.aota.org/ajot/article/74/Supplement_3/7413410005p1/6691/AOTA-2020-Occupational-Therapy-Code-of-Ethics