Break Into Health Care as an Occupational Therapy Assistant

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Have you always felt that health care is the field you need to be in, but you’re unsure how to get there? Are you a creative person who likes helping people, but can’t stand the sight of blood?

Break into health care field as an occupational therapy assistant.

Occupational therapy’s number one goal is to help clients (what patients are called in OT) live life to the fullest. Occupational therapy assistants are able to work in any of the six practice areas.

The Six Occupational Therapy Practice Areas

1. Children and Youth

OTA uses play to help motor functions

OTAs work with children who have developmental disabilities, mental health issues, autism, sensory issues, and more in a wide variety of settings, including schools, clinics, and client homes.

2. Health and Wellness

This practice area focuses on helping clients with chronic and acute conditions. The main purpose of the health and wellness practice area is to help people manage their conditions and be as active and independent as possible.

3. Mental Health

A little-known practice area, mental health practice is the area in which occupational therapy helps those with mental health issues.

Clients who abuse drugs or alcohol, have a mood disorder, or are dealing with anything mental health-related can utilize a registered occupational therapist (OTR) and an OTA to help them transition to a new job, manage stress, and more.

4. Productive Aging

The most well-known area of OT, productive aging is the practice area in which OTAs care for older adults and address all aspects of aging.

The goal of productive aging and occupational therapy is to help older adults be as independent and safe as possible.

5. Rehabilitation and Disability

This practice area is where it all began for occupational therapy. The rehabilitation and disability practice area addresses clients with an illness, injury, or permanent disability.

OTAs that work in this practice area commonly work in a hospital, rehab facility, clinic, or in clients’ home.

6. Work and Industry

After an illness or injury, OTAs assist clients who want to go back to work. They work with employers to modify or adapt work so a client can successfully return to work.

St. Catherine University: OTA Trailblazer

St. Catherine University is a national leader when it comes to occupational therapy.

In 1964, the university offered the first occupational therapy assistant program and began offering an accelerated OTA degree online in 2014.

In December 2015, the first-ever online OTA class in Richmond, Virginia graduated.

Break into health care with St. Catherine's online OTA program

OTA 2015 Graduates

This trailblazing class began their online studies in the fall of 2014.

Recent graduate Courtney Tomney shares how she found out about the brand new online program and why she decided to pursue her degree online.

I was back and forth on what I wanted to do. I started Googling things online and St. Catherine came up.

I read the description of the school and about occupational therapy and I fell in love with it. Occupational therapy really stood out to me.

One of 14 new graduates, Tomney was initially skeptical of learning online, but took the time to explore the platform and become comfortable.

What was the most challenging part of the program for Tomney? Fieldwork.

Our online program is not 100 percent online. While all coursework is done online, our students complete 8 skills labs experiences and spend 720 hours completing fieldwork in various occupational therapy practice areas.

Challenging and Rewarding Fieldwork

While fieldwork was the most challenging part for Tomney, it was also the most rewarding.

There was a patient that I worked with at my last fieldwork who had a moderate to severe stage of dementia and was very hard of hearing. Instead of talking into his ear, I felt like I was yelling at him; I realized that I needed to try something different.

We started a written communication. Initially, his written communication was not legible. The more I worked with him and did repetition with him, the more he would sit and read it. I would watch his lips and see that he could read it and see what he was saying.

At one point during the repetition, he started to verbalize and start talking to me and communicating back. I thought that the repetition of getting him to just read and write would help him verbally communicate with me better and it did!

It was tough to work with him at first, we had to work out our routine, but I just jumped in and started the repetition and he started verbally speaking. He would get frustrated and I would tell him it was okay and to take his time and he got to a point where he could just talk to me.

Courtney’s story is just one of many amazing patient stories our occupational therapy students have encountered in the field.

The Impact of OTA

Our first graduating online OTA class hailed from all over the state of Virginia and helped people from all walks of life. While Courtney helped an elderly man speak again, other students have helped clients learn how to walk their dog again, do woodworking, manage stress, cook for themselves, and more.

Occupational therapy truly strives to help people live a full, happy life. If you are looking to break into health care, enjoy working with others, and love being creative, consider a career in occupational therapy.

Start Your OTA Journey

Just two years ago, Courtney was a recent high school graduate working retail. Today she has her Associate of Applied Science in OTA from St. Catherine University.

Are you interested in becoming an occupational therapy assistant? Talk to an admissions advisor today!

outside shot of st. kate campus

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