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Copyright 2004-2005
The Activity Director's Office
All rights reserved
What Does It Mean To Be An Activity Professional?
By Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC
Executive Director of
DH Special Services

What does it mean to be an activity professional?  Having been an activity professional since before we were all called activity
professionals, I am often asked how does one become an activity director?  An activity professional?  Or an activity therapist?  
Is it as simple as attending a course or getting your degree?  Is it a matter of working a number of years and becoming
comfortable with the diverse needs of the elderly?  

Years ago, I would have told you if you enjoyed working with people and you had some creative talents – you would make a
good activity professional.  Today, it isn’t as simple as that.  Today’s activity professional needs a combination of personal
qualities and specific educational accomplishments to be successful.  I have always believed our work requires a certain type
of person, someone who has unconditional regard for the elderly.  This is something that cannot be taught.  But in today’s
health care setting - having the desire to work with the elderly is not enough.   The activity professional of today needs a certain
set of skills and knowledge which will allow them to develop and conduct appropriate programs for the elders.  

Whether you are a new or experienced activity professional – you are invited to conduct this personal inventory.  Do you know
where you are going? And do you know how to get there?

-Are you certified?  The
National Certification Council for Activity Professionals is the only certification program which
certifies individuals providing therapeutic activities for elders in long term care settings. The certification is recognized in the
Federal regulations for nursing homes as a qualifying credential, as well as in many State regulations.   If you are not certified,
NCCAP today and obtain the standards for certification.

-Are you a member of your local, State or National Associations?  The mark of any profession is when the professionals meet
periodically for networking and education.  There are many States with formal organizations for Activity Professionals.  They
have conventions, seminars, newsletters and web sites.  Find the organization in your State and become a member today.  

-Do you or does your facility subscribe to the many professional publications and journals?  
Creative Forecasting, A New Day,
Activities Director’s Guide are wonderful publications which provide countless programming ideas and resources for the
activity professional.  It is easy to run dry of ideas occasionally.  These publications provide the B-12 shot we need once in a

-What is your educational plan?  If you are certified and have taken the basic and standard coursework for the activity
professional – where do you go from here?  If educational programs are not available in your area – the internet has become
the new educational meeting place.  On-line education opportunities are  ample and growing daily.    Challenge yourself with
at least 2-3 classes a year.  

-Become a mentor to a new activity professional.  Personally, I find working with the newer members of our profession
refreshing.  They are seeing things for the first time and their excitement is contagious.  Be open to their excitement and try not
to squelch their enthusiasm with the old “been there, done that” or “that will never work” syndromes.  

-Write an article for a professional publication.  The activity profession is a minimally published profession.  Experienced
activity professionals need to write about their successes.  Seek out a publication like
Provideror Long Term Care
Managementand determine their publication requirements.  A story about your newest program might be just what they are
looking for.  

-Be protective of your passion.  Burnout is high amongst helping professionals, especially activity professionals.  Most would
agree that we are rarely encouraged to “take a few days off as you have been working very hard and look tired”.  You owe it to
your residents to take care of yourself.  Schedule in personal time regularly.   

So what does it mean to be an activity professional?  It means nurturing a never-ending desire to seek out new ideas and to
provide the best programs for our elders; participating in continuing education whether you have been in the profession one
year or twenty; working cooperatively with fellow activity professionals and interdisciplinary staff; and a continuous commitment
to the values of our profession.  
Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, is
the Executive Director of DH Special
Services. She is a Certified Activity
Consultant on State and National
level, with over twenty-seven years of
experience in providing direct care
and consultation to long term care,
medical day care, assisted living, and
ICF/MR facilities throughout New
Jersey, New York, Maryland, and
Pennsylvania. She is an experienced
trainer and workshop presenter,
conducting a variety of seminars
throughout the Tri-State area for the
Activity Professional, Administrator,
and allied healthcare professional.
Debbie Hommel is an active member
of Activity Professional Associations
on State and National levels. She is
ACC certified through the NCCAP.
She is a founding member of the New
Jersey Activity Professionals'
Association, serving terms as Vice
President and President. She
received the Weidner Lifetime
Achievement Award in 1994 and the
Monmouth & Ocean County Activity
Professionals Life Achievement
Award in 1999.
Book Review 1

Venture Publishing offers publications which cover the
areas of therapeutic recreation, activity programming, and
long-term care amongst other topics.  They have many
publications which are interesting and helpful to the activity
professional.  One of my favorites is “
Simple Expressions:
Creative and Therapeutic Arts for the Elderly in Long-
Term Care Facilities” by Vickie Parsons.  This small, yet
program packed book offers hundreds of successful
creative arts ideas.  Paper Towel Art, Balloon Painting,
various natural clay recipes, Crayon Batik, Musical Suitcase,
Illustrated Stories, Thoughts-Go-Round and Cooking
Expressions are some of the ideas offered in this book.  
The ideas are simple enough for adaptation for the more
impaired resident.  Yet the activity ideas are adult in nature
and focus on the process and experience rather than the
end result.  All activities offered include a listing of
necessary supplies, how to prepare ahead and group
implementation suggestions.  
Book Review 2

My second favorite book from Venture Publishing is
Everything from A to Y, the Zest is up to you!  Older Adult
Activities for Every Day of the Year”.   Theme
programming is very successful and this book offers theme
activities for each day of the year.  Each day lists notable
birthdays, seasonal days, food recognition days, and the
silly holidays we all enjoy.  Then, each day offers a morning
and afternoon program which focuses on the selected
themes.  Trivia, active games, cooking programs,
reminiscent ideas, memory games and discussion topics
are outlined for each day.  For example, March 12th is the
day the Girl Scouts were organized.  Listed within this
section is the history of the girl scouts along with food trivia
associated with Girl Scout cookies.    This is a good book to
have readily available – to use for fill in activities or a basis
for the planned program.  
Recommended Reading