What Does an Occupational Therapist Do: Part II of Talking with an OT

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There are a lot of questions you may have about working in the occupational therapy field. Where will I be working? What will my days look like? What will the patients be like? Is it stressful? What does an occupational therapist do? Speaking with a professional in the occupational therapy field can tell you a lot about what you can expect in your own OTA career and provide some comfort before enrolling in St. Catherine’s OTA Online Program. Here is part II of Talking with an OT.

If you missed part I of of Talking with an OT, you can catch up with Why Become an Occupational Therapist.

what does an OT do?

Tell me about your most memorable patient.

1. Marlene: I have had quite a few; they are all memorable in their own way. One patient however, really taught me the importance of being client-centered and occupational-based in my intervention. The patient was a retiree who had a passion for farming. When I first started working with him, he was very disengaged in the treatment, and I didn’t feel like he was doing his best. After a couple of days of working with him, whenever we started an activity he would make the activity related to his interests, which happened to be farming.

So I went with it, and every day we “played farm” in therapy. We would think of creative ways to mimic tasks on the farm to work on what we needed to work on. He was very engaged in the rest of our sessions, and since then I strive to be client-centered and occupation-based.

2. Nikki: My most memorable patient was one I had last year. He suffered a severe crush injury to his entire dominant hand, which was debilitating in his line of work. He and his wife came to therapy two to three times each week and drove about two hours each way to get there. He was a joy to work with, did everything we asked of him, and was very motivated to regain the use of his hand. His wife was so supportive of him and it was very refreshing. He ended up needing multiple surgeries and came to therapy for over a year. They put the rest of their lives on hold so he could recover.

He was always smiling and laughing. You will find “glass half empty” patients and “glass half full” patients throughout your career. He had a great outlook on life and was most definitely a “glass half full” person. We even had a mini celebration for him in the clinic on his birthday. His hand will never be perfect, but he did regain the use of his hand and was able to go back to work.

What’s your favorite part of being an OT?

1. Marlene: My favorite part of being an OT in seeing how far the patients I work with come from their initial evaluation to their discharge back in the community. I work in inpatient rehabilitation so many times we are seeing people at one of their lowest and hardest time of their life. It is very rewarding to see a patient post-stroke walk out of our facility when only a few weeks before they were in tears of frustration because they were unable to do anything for themselves.

2. Nikki: My favorite part of being an OT is fabricating custom orthotics. I love doing crafts in my free time, so it’s almost like doing arts and crafts at work when you make these. Besides making orthotics, I enjoy meeting all different kinds of people. I see anywhere from 10 to 13 patients every day and they come from all walks of life. Each treatment session is 30 to 60 minutes long. If you see the patient one to three times a week, you have a chance to really get to know them. It is interesting finding out what is important to each patient and customizing the therapy program to increase his independence with daily activities.

What’s the most difficult part of being an occupational therapist?

1. Marlene: The most difficult part of being an occupational therapist is that the amount of time people have in therapy it not always based on your clinical judgment or a patient’s needs, but it is governed by insurance and other payer sources a lot of the time.

For example, in inpatient rehabilitation, we are paid primarily through Medicare. Medicare will give a patient X days to spend in rehab based on their initial assessment and this will be a guide for a patient’s discharge. However, many times a patient is given, say, 20 days in rehab, and they would really benefit from one more week to be in a better position when they go home. A lot of times insurance will not allow them the extra days in rehabilitation; this is difficult to deal with, especially if it means they will have to go to a nursing home before they go home.

2. Nikki: Sometimes no matter how hard you or the patient tries, they don’t make any progress. You want the patient to get better and the patient definitely wants to get better. However, for whatever reason beyond your control (i.e. nerve damage, scar tissue, head injury, financial obligations, etc.) the patient has reached a plateau. This can be extremely frustrating and disheartening.

Occupational therapists can provide plenty of insight that can help you make an informed decision about enrolling in St. Catherine’s online OTA program. Get some more firsthand information about the patients you can encounter in occupational therapy, the most memorable parts of OT school, and why OTs love their jobs from our OT guest bloggers.

Working as an occupational therapy assistant allows you to work closely with occupational therapists and work directly with your patients. As an occupational therapy assistant, you’ll enact intervention plans created by occupational therapists and see your patients improve with every session.

Want to learn more about becoming an occupational therapy assistant? Contact us today to speak to an admissions advisor.

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