OT ExplainedOTR Guest Blogger

Should I Go into Occupational Therapy? Things to Know About the Field

When researching healthcare careers, it’s important to fully research each field you may be considering. Ask yourself, “will I be able to find a job with this degree?” “Should I go into occupational therapy?” Our guest blogger shares what you should know about the OT field and what an occupational therapy assistants’ role is.

“You’re an occupational therapist; does that mean you are going to help me find a job?” ”I don’t need a job, I’m retired.” These are just of few of the common misconceptions of my profession as an occupational therapist. True, we can help you find a job or return to work, but that doesn’t describe the whole profession.

Occupational therapists, as defined by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), “help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).”

So after an individual has experienced physical and cognitive changes, an occupational therapist is an integral part in helping them return to their daily activities.

OT is a diverse field.

Occupational therapy as a field is very diverse; for almost every setting you can think of there is a need for an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists can be found working in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, private homes, and even in prisons. They can teach people how to resume their roles as a worker, parent, caregiver, lover, homemaker etc.

How OTs re-educate people on resuming their roles is also very diverse; they can help a mother gain strength in her arms to be able to hold her baby, they can use a driving simulator computer program to assist someone in returning to driving, or help someone set up their home to adapt for low-vision. The possibilities in occupational therapy are endless.

OTs should be creative problem solvers.

Occupational therapists have to be extremely creative to be able to help an individual return to whatever occupation that individual needs or is interested in returning to.

For example, I recently had a patient who had sustained a cerebrovascular accident (CVA). (Commonly referred to as a ‘stroke’, CVA is when brain cells do not get enough oxygen due to a sudden blockage.) Prior to his CVA he had participated in his company’s 24-hour bike relay. My patient had voiced to me that he didn’t want to miss it this year. This is when, as a therapist, you think, “how can I make this happen? How can we break this activity down to make him successful?” And then…you have your “ah-ha” moment where you find that creative solution.

So I had my “ah-ha” moment and brought in a bike and a bike trainer from home. He had been able to walk without an assistive device but still required a fair amount of help. With the help of another therapist, we got him on the bike and adapted the bike to keep his feet on the pedals. He was able to ride the bike for a few minutes at first, then worked up to about 10 minutes. He and his wife were thrilled that he was able to do this. He said, “Maybe I will be able to do the ride this year.”

This is a very rewarding moment as an occupational therapist.

OTs and OTAs have different duties.

Occupational therapists can do a lot to help people after they have experienced physical and cognitive changes, but what is the difference between an occupational therapist and occupational therapy assistant? An occupational therapist completes evaluations and creates the plan of care for patients, whereas a certfied occupational therapy assistant (COTA) is responsible for carrying out the OT-set treatment plan.

The occupational therapist is in charge of supervising the occupational therapy assistant to follow the plan of care, as well as has to co-sign the COTA’s treatment notes. It is the job of both the COTA and the OT to be continuously assessing if the current plan of care is appropriate and having the OT update it if needed.

There is more than meets the eye when it comes to occupational therapy. Occupational therapy professionals are creative individuals that help people who have experienced cognitive or physical changes return to their everyday occupations.

If you’re interested in joining the field of occupational therapy as an Certified OTA, contact us today to find out how you can jumpstart your healthcare career.

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