Governor Evers Issues Emergency Order #35 To Ease Rules On OT’s

Residents in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, often work directly with occupational therapy assistants to recover from strokes or other health issues and to maintain, recover or improve their ability to perform activities related to daily life. Yet many individuals who need to work with OT assistants could not get the care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic because of limitations in Wisconsin’s rules governing occupational therapy. Gov. Tony Evers took a step on Tuesday to remedy the challenges, when he issued Emergency Order 35, which suspends rules related to oversight and supervision of occupational assistants. This order extends to occupational therapists some of the flexibilities afforded to other provider groups, including physical therapists, in previous orders.

Under EO 35, occupational therapists will be able to supervise OT assistants using technology, such as video or phone. Without the order, Wisconsin rules required in-person supervision, which is inadvisable given the social distancing requirements of COVID-19. The order also suspends predetermined numbers of interactions an occupational therapist would have to have with an assistant and client. This change enables occupational therapists to instead exercise their professional judgment to determine how often to have direct contact with a supervised OT assistant and client.

The order also suspends supervision limitations for hearing instrument trainees, the individuals who, among other things, fit hearing aids. Previously, a hearing instrument specialist or an audiologist could supervise only one trainee. Given the limited availability of licensing exams, these licensed professionals may supervise more trainees.