5 Common OTA Questions Answered

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Stephanie Adams, DHSc, OTR/L answers OTA questions including: what qualities are needed to become an OTA, how to prepare for OTA school, what is the best thing about becoming an OTA, why is traveling for labs and fieldwork worth it, and more.

woman in scrubs sitting with elderly woman at table drawing on paper

If you’re interested in becoming an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), you likely have questions about your education and professional journey and how to prepare for OTA school.

That’s exactly why we spoke with Stephanie Adams, DHSc, OTR/L, the Online Occupational Therapy Assistant Program Director and Assistant Professor here at St. Catherine University!

Stephanie Adams, DHSc
Stephanie Adams

Dr. Adams has four degrees in occupational therapy. Her journey with OT began with becoming a COTA in 1994, then earning a B.S. in OT in 2000. She was a practicing OT for several years before deciding to return to school to earn a post-professional MHS OT degree in 2009 and a Doctor of Health Science degree in OT (DHSc) in 2017.

We asked Dr. Adams for her best advice regarding five frequently-asked OTA questions. Read on to see her answers.

1. What qualities do you think a person needs to be successful in the field with clients?

Listening skills, empathy and really being client-centered and respectful. It’s important to be comfortable asking open-ended questions, so you can learn about your clients.

If you're just asking yes or no questions, you're not really getting a lot of details. It's helpful to ask questions so your clients can talk about their story and you can understand more about their lives and what they care about.

Another important quality is being team-centered since you’ll be working with so many other healthcare professionals, such as nurses, physical therapists and speech therapists.

OTA working with child and toys on floor

Want to know more about what an occupational therapy assistant does? Read this blog post.

2. What is the best thing about becoming an OTA?

It’s all about serving others. When you meet family members of the client you're working with, you realize you’re not just helping the client, but their family, too. Being honored to help them overcome the challenges they're facing and trying to get the client as independent as possible is very rewarding.

3. What makes St. Kate's unique?

St. Kate’s students are immersed in community, and they go out and learn in a lot of different settings. Our fieldwork experiences have students go to community-based settings, like a senior center, for example, and incorporates exposure to different populations where the students will be conducting a wide variety of activities.

three OT students posing and smiling in class

4. What advice would you give students who have to travel for labs and fieldwork, and why is it worth it?

The biggest thing is the online piece of our program is flexible. There is the flexibility piece of the online learning portion, but the travel to go to the labs is actually a super exciting time. It may be a lot of work to be able to get everything done homework-wise or to get your family settled and then head off to get to a lab. Most of the time, the students are choosing a lab that's closer to them geographically. They can choose what works best for them. If they live on the east coast, they can go to Virginia or Minnesota. But they do have to schedule everything and get there.

I think it's that exciting time of really seeing the course content come together in the lab because everything they do in lab is reflective of what they've been learning in their course. They only have 12 labs, so that in itself is a perk.

St K. OTA student in purple shirt standing outside

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I think it can be a little stressful for a student to balance the logistics, but it's also fun. They also get to meet their cohort of peers who will be with them for the entire journey, and that makes it a lot easier.

I think it's challenging, but it's exciting, too. The lab piece of our program is not like any other OTA program, which is kind of cool. I love that part.

5. What advice would you have for that prospective OTA student for how to prepare for OTA school?

Learn as much as you can about OT. We have our national organization; it’s called the American Occupational Therapy Association, AOTA for short. They have really cool information on there about OT in general.

Go volunteer at a site and shadow an OT or an OTA. I think my light bulb was when I saw OT in action. Volunteering is really, really important. If you're volunteering and you can talk to that practitioner and get some nitty-gritty details about what is it really like day in and day out of being an OTA practitioner, that's helpful.

man high-fiving an elderly woman

Earn Your OTA Degree from St. Kate’s in as Few as 16 Months

Interested in learning more about what an OTA does and how you can pursue an exciting career as an occupational therapy assistant? With three start dates each year and spots available now, you can start working toward becoming an OTA sooner than you might think.

Contact us today, and an admissions counselor will reach out to discuss our Online OTA program.

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The Ultimate Guide to Occupational Therapy and OTA

Get answers to your questions about the field, about the OTA career path, and about St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program.

book with cover title: Occupational Therapy Assistant Explained