If you are on the fence about whether or not you want to enroll in occupational therapy assistant schools, it can help to hear from someone who works in the occupational therapy field. Our guest blogger shares the details about her occupational therapy job satisfaction and what her favorite aspects of working in the OT field are.
There are a lot of benefits to working as an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant. Some of my favorites include flexible work hours, availability of a variety of settings, lots of job openings, allowing for creativity and, above all, it is extremely rewarding.
Flexible working hours
Whether you are a working parent or just wish to have a flexible job, occupational therapy may be the field for you. I know many therapists who work two or three days a week. Working part time as an occupational therapist is common and easily attainable if you are looking for a nice balance between your professional and personal life. Another therapist can easily pick up where you left off with a patient’s treatment based on your notes. Therefore if the patient is scheduled to be seen daily, you can treat them Monday, Wednesday and Friday and your coworker can treat Tuesday and Thursday with no problem.
There can be a lot of flexibility in the setting you work in as well. I currently work in an outpatient setting where patients arrive at scheduled times and it is often not very flexible. However, my previous job was in a hospital setting (acute care) where I could flex my schedule to arrive one hour or so early (and leave early) or arrive late (and leave late). My boss was fine with this, as long as I worked a full eight hours and met my productivity.
There is also a lot of opportunity for PRN work. PRN is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase “pro re nata” meaning “when necessary” or “as needed.” I have a full time job working 40 hours a week, but I work PRN at a local hospital and pick up a Saturday here and there when they need some extra help. This also applies to holidays. The regular therapy staff often wants to take time off on weekends and holidays, so if you are willing to work these less desirable hours, you can make a lot of extra money! The PRN hourly rate is often close to double the regular hourly rate for a normal employee. This is because they may ask you last minute or because it is a weekend or holiday. Some therapists are stay-at-home parents and are only employed as PRN. They can work when they want or when it is convenient. Full time, part time, PRN… so many possibilities!
A Variety of Settings
Another great thing about being an occupational therapist or therapy assistant is the huge variety of settings available. We can work in the school system, outpatient pediatrics and/or adults, inpatient hospital setting, skilled nursing facilities, mental health facilities, orthopedics and hand therapy clinics or home health. Our skill set coming out of school is so broad that you can work in any of these settings. There are lots of opportunities to work with only kids, only older adults, only mental health, etc if you want to keep it simple. However, there are also tons of opportunities for you to get a healthy mix of everything in one job. If you work in an acute care hospital setting, you will have an opportunity to work with adults, children, older adults and mental health patients.
The great thing about all the variety settings is you will never get completely burnt out with your career. You may get burnt out with your current job, but there are so many different types of settings to practice in that you can totally switch gears to keep it interesting. Burnt out on kids? Switch from the school system to an inpatient acute care in a hospital. Those couldn’t be more different! Lots of possibilities!
Another note about being a working parent, if you want to work in a school, try to pick the same school system as your children. That way you will have the same schedule as your kids: spring break, fall break and summer break!
Lots of Job Openings
There are a lot of job openings as an occupational therapist or therapy assistant. We are extremely lucky. If you want to pack up and leave your hometown, it is extremely easy to find a job across the United States. If you want to stay local, that’s easy too. In this field, you will likely never be told to relocate to another state (or hospital for that matter) like people in the corporate world. If you were to lose your job, you don’t have to worry about moving your family to a different state to seek another job. Just go down the street to the next hospital or clinic! I find great comfort in this. There are also opportunities to work as a travel OT or OTA. There you are employed with a company that places you in hospitals or clinics around the United States for periods of time. If you are looking for jobs close to home, across the USA or with opportunities to travel, the possibilities are endless!
This career gives you a ton of freedom to be creative. Personally, this give me a lot of job satisfaction. When you are in school, they teach you how to treat people who have had a stroke, or who have schizophrenia or who have Parkinson’s disease. However, out in the real world your patient who has schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease just suffered a stroke yesterday. You will need to problem solve and think outside the box to help them get better. You will never have a “textbook” example of a patient where you know exactly every step to help them be more independent. This keeps it interesting and makes you to think outside the box. You can build tools, come up with activities, create adaptive equipment and help adapt their home by altering the layout or setup to meet their needs. So many possibilities, you are only limited by your imagination!
This career is extremely rewarding. Your patients will be coming to you for help, often at one of the lowest points in their life. With your skills, knowledge and time, you will be able to give someone their life back, or at least make it better. In the outpatient setting I work in, I often see patients for months or years at a time. You build relationships with your patients and when you discharge them from therapy it is often bittersweet. You often spend much more quality time with these people than other health care disciplines (i.e. doctors or nurses). As a therapist you are with your patient for 30 minutes to an hour multiple times a week. I have had many patients hug me (or believe it or not, tear up) when we finish our last session. You can’t help but let that persons gratitude tug at your heart strings. You have made such a difference in that person’s life and they will be forever grateful, even those that don’t outwardly show it.
Interested in learning more about working as an occupational therapy assistant? Speak to an advisor today to get all of the information you need.