Do you have a desire to help others live life to the fullest, but you also need a job that can fit your lifestyle? If you’re looking for a career like physical therapy, you might consider a career in occupational therapy as an occupational therapy assistant.
Often confused with physical therapy, occupational therapy aims to help clients, what patients are called in OT, learn to work with their limitations and perform everyday tasks more independently. The main difference between physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) is that PT treats the injury and OT treats the whole person.
Occupational Therapy Assistant: The Job Explained
Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work closely with registered occupational therapists (OTR) who develop rehabilitation or treatment plans to help clients regain independence.
Often involving sight, movement, and brain function, OTA treatment plans are carried out to help clients “get their lives back.” A career like physical therapy, occupational therapy shows clients how to adjust to their limitations while still accomplishing the same daily tasks.
Work Hours: Enjoy Career Flexibility
Do you need a job where you can work part-time? A job where you can work in different work settings? Do you need a job where you can be in control of your work schedule?
OTAs enjoy flexible work hours and schedules. A typical week for an OTA might include spending weekday mornings at a hospital with adults, afternoons at a school with children, taking some on-call hours at a skilled nursing facility, and more.
Typically, OTAs don’t work nights, weekends, or major holidays, unless they actually want to. As an OTA, you can enjoy great career flexibility, and many OTAs enjoy working full or part time.
6 Work Settings: You Have Choices
While many health care professionals work in only one setting, OTAs have a lot of choices.
While many people think that OT is only applicable to the older population, OTAs actually have the choice of working in six different practice areas.
1. Children and Youth
OTAs work with babies, children, and school-age kids who have developmental disabilities, mental health issues, autism, sensory issues, and more. OTAs often work with these children in schools, clinics, and client homes.
2. Health and Wellness
Health and wellness applies to clients who have issues ranging from chronic conditions to acute conditions. OTAs work with clients and teach them how they can manage their conditions while still leading a healthy, active, and independent life
3. Mental Health
Many people don’t know that occupational therapy extends to those with mental health issues, even though OT began as treatment for the mentally ill.
While OTRs always include mental health as part of a client’s treatment plan, occupational therapy helps adults who have mood disorders, anxiety issues, those who abuse drugs or alcohol, and more. OTAs can even work with people who are transitioning into a new job.
4. Productive Aging
The most well-known practice area, productive aging has OTAs work with OTRs to address all aspects of growing older. Primarily focusing on function, OTAs work to help keep older adults safe and independent.
5. Rehabilitation and Disability
This practice area works closely with physical therapy and rehabilitation and is actually the core of occupational therapy. In this practice area, OTAs work with clients who have injuries, illnesses, or a permanent disability.
6. Work and Industry
In this practice area, occupational therapists work with employers and employees to adapt or modify work so a client can successfully return to work following an illness or injury. OTAs often work to help clients prepare for a job and transition into the workforce.
While a career like physical therapy might seem like a great choice, most physical therapy assistants don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to their work environment. Here are a just few places you might work as an OTA:
- Nursing Homes
- In-home care settings
- Rehabilitation centers
- Physical therapy offices
- Halfway houses
- Clients’ own home
Why Become an OTA with St. Catherine University
St. Catherine University, also referred to St. Kate’s, wrote the book on occupational therapy assistant education in the United States. In 1964, St. Kate’s became the first school in the nation to offer an occupational therapy assistant program and is one of the only universities to offer all levels of OT education.
This means that you have the opportunity to learn about occupational therapy from professors who also teach bachelor and master level occupational therapy courses. So why should you choose St. Catherine University? We’ve been educating students to become OTAs for over 50 years!
If you think a career as an OTA is the right choice for you, learn more about St. Catherine University’s online OTA program and contact an admissions advisor today.