Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Occupational Therapy Doctorate


Occupational Therapy

Faculty Mentor

Roger Ideishi, JD, OT/L, FAOTA; Sonia Crandall, PhD, MS; Jennifer Weaver, PhD, OTR/L, CBIS


Background: The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has identified health and wellness as a key practice area in the 21st century, which includes a focus on health care disparities (AOTA, 2019). AOTA has explicitly stated its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (AOTA, 2020b). To our knowledge, there is no evidence discussing the acknowledgement of implicit bias among occupational therapy practitioners, which leads to disparities in health care when left unrecognized and unmanaged.

Objective: To understand the level of awareness of implicit bias among occupational therapy practitioners.

Study Design: Descriptive qualitative.

Participants: Three post-professional occupational therapy doctoral students.

Methods: Participants initially completed Implicit Association Tests (IATs) to promote thought surrounding implicit bias. Following completion of the IATs, a focus group was conducted. The focus group was audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed descriptively.

Results: There was an indication of consistency across participants providing inconsistent responses, both in thought and action, regarding recognition and management of implicit bias in practice. While saturation was not achieved, there is preliminary evidence to support four categories that were generated from the data: implicit bias- suppression versus acknowledgement, fluidity between implicit and explicit bias, certain versus uncertain, and value of exposure in managing implicit bias.

Conclusion: The four categories generated from the data align with current literature, demonstrating the tension and discomfort anticipated when discussing implicit bias. Knowledge of these four categories may influence future inquiries to establish a framework to guide the occupational therapy profession’s response to addressing health care disparities.


occupational therapy, implicit bias, healthcare disparities, cultural humility


© Kellie Sawyer 2021

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