Date of Award


Document Type

Independent Study

Degree Name

Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)


Occupational Therapy

First Advisor

Sarah Nielsen


Minnesota; North Dakota; Occupational Therapists; Rural Health


There is limited research regarding the experiences of occupational therapy practitioners working in rural areas of the United States. The purpose of this phenomenological, qualitative study was to gain an understanding of the experiences of occupational therapy practitioners working in rural areas of Minnesota and North Dakota. Many of the occupational therapy practitioners working in these states encounter experiences that are unique to the rural context. These experiences help to form an occupational therapy practitioner’s professional identity. The Professional Identity Model (Tornebohm, 1991) was utilized to further understand the impact of the rural context on a practitioner’s professional identity. The four components of the Professional Identity Model (Tornebohm, 1991) guided data collection and analysis and include: (a) interests, (b) field of action view, (c) world view, and (d) competency (Tornebohm, 1991). The components of the model were utilized as predetermined codes. From the codes, ten themes emerged, and these themes were used to formulate the final assertion. The results from the data analysis indicated that a rural occupational therapy practitioner’s professional identity is impacted by personal interests and experiences. Practitioners indicated that all four areas of the Professional Identity Model (Tornebohm, 1991) can be developed and/or challenged by the rural context. Components of rural practice that practitioners did not appreciate included increased travel time and a lack of professional supports and networks. Positive aspects of rural practice include the variety of clientele, increased flexibility and freedom within practice, and feeling better connected to the community and/or facility. Due to the limited sample size, it is recommended future research be completed on a larger sample size and geographic area.