Occupational Therapy and Rural and Remote Practice Network

The Occupational Therapy and Rural and Remote Practice network started in 2011. While the definitions of rural and remote are many, the network uses the following definitions:

Rural: any community with a population less than 10,000
Remote: any community not within a 2 hour commuting distance from a community with a population of 10,000 or more

Rural and remote areas of Canada tend to be underserviced (Romanow, 2002, p.162). For example, the Canadian Institute for Health Information noted that in 2009 “only 5.7% of occupational therapists were employed in rural and remote areas of Canada, where 27% of the population resides” (CIHI, 2010, p.24).

To provide a forum for networking, resource sharing and articulating the unique practice and practice contexts of occupational therapists working in rural and remote Canada.

The Guiding Principles:

  • Each rural or remote community is unique with distinct socioeconomic, cultural and environmental features that affect the health and well-being of the population. This results in different health care and occupational therapy needs for individual communities.
  • Rural and remote populations require equitable access to health and wellness services, regardless of where they live. Therefore, the distribution of health care and its benefits should not be based solely on population distribution, but also on population needs.
  • Occupational therapy service delivery models need to be developed in partnership with rural and remote communities, as members of these communities are key players in identifying local health care issues and solutions. Due to unique practice settings, rural and remote communities can foster innovative and creative occupational therapy service delivery models.
  • Occupational therapy practice in rural and remote communities is distinct from practice in an urban setting. Different emphasis may be placed on occupational therapy competencies required for rural and remote versus urban practice.
  • Ability to practice in rural and remote communities requires occupational therapists to specialize in a practice which emphasizes broad-based, generalist clinical skills.
  • University occupational therapy programs in Canada should reflect both urban and remote practice contexts in Canada by: incorporating both practice settings into the curriculum, articulating the differences in the practice contexts, and offering rural and remote student placements.
  • Given that over twenty percent of the Canadian population lives in rural and remote communities, and less than ten percent of occupational therapists live and work in rural and remote communities, there is an opportunity to support the practice and advocate for more occupational therapists practicing in rural and remote regions across Canada.


  • To create a visible and dynamic network of occupational therapists working in rural and remote communities across Canada. To explore, articulate and promote the unique occupational therapy practice and practice context of rural and remote therapists.
  • To share resources, such as best practice guidelines, evidence informed practice guidelines, research and educational opportunities to support the practice of rural and remote occupational therapists.
  • To examine and advocate for the appropriate use of telehealth and electronic technology to support rural and remote occupational therapy practice.
  • To articulate the challenges of occupational therapy health human resource issues as related to rural and remote practice.
  • To advocate for increased mentoring for occupational therapists practicing in rural and remote regions across Canada.
  • To forge linkages with rural and remote practice groups in other professions to determine possible common goals and objectives.


Cathy McNeil


Amanda Dickson (Ontario)
Wendy Graham (Nova Scotia)
Heather Lyon (Northwest Territories)
Janna MacLachlan (Ontario)
Cathy McNeil (Yukon)
Patti O’Keefe (Newfoundland)
Alison Sisson (Yukon)
Les Smith (British Columbia)
Marni Streit (Manitoba) 

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CAOT Publications
An Occupational Therapist’s Guide to Home Modification Practice
Written by: E. Ainsworth & D. De Jonge

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