When you are trying to decide whether you want to pursue a career as an occupational therapy assistant, you will find that the best way to research this career path is by hearing first-hand from someone in this field. If you are lucky enough to know an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant, invite him or her out for coffee and ask about his or her career.
Some rehabilitation facilities and clinics allow students to shadow professionals for a day. Consider calling the facility and set up a time to shadow someone. If you aren’t able to take time off to job shadow, ask if there is an occupational therapist or someone on staff who would be willing to meet with you to talk about the OT field. Meeting with someone will offer you the chance to see the ins and outs of a clinic or rehab facility.
What does it mean to be an occupational therapist? Take a look at part III of Talking with an OT to learn what they think of life working in occupational therapy. Be sure to read part I (Why Become an Occupational Therapist) and part II (What Does an Occupational Therapist Do).
Have you ever felt overwhelmed in your career? Tell me about it?
1. Marlene: At times I have felt overwhelmed by my career. Usually, when this happens it is directly related to our hospital census. For example, I typically have a caseload of six to seven patients on my schedule. However, if census is up I may be responsible for eight to nine patients. This is difficult because in inpatient rehabilitation you have to treat your patients, be involved in family conferences, be involved in morning huddles, complete home evaluations, be involved in team conference, etc.
There just aren’t enough hours in your work day. This is very overwhelming, so you have to prioritize your time and work closely with your team members so it goes smoothly and remember that census will hopefully go down soon.
2. Nikki: I feel overwhelmed in my career all the time. I work in a very fast paced, intense environment. I am constantly being challenged and I love it! I am rarely bored at work. The main time when I am overwhelmed at work is when I have a patient scheduled for too short of an appointment. For example, when our front office coordinator accidently schedules a patient for 30 minutes and it takes me 60 minutes get all the necessary components of his visit accomplished. It is even worse if it happens back to back. With too little time, it is very easy to make mistakes, which is simply unacceptable as they can be catastrophic in this setting. We see some pretty severely injured patients with diagnoses that other clinics only read about in books.
You need to be on top of your game at all times and when time is the limiting factor, it can be quite overwhelming. However, as I said, I enjoy the fast-paced working environment. If fast-paced is not for you, there are plenty of other, slower settings where you can work (i.e. a skilled nursing facility).
What would you say to those considering a career in OT?
1. Marlene: I would encourage them to consider a career in occupational therapy. OT is a very rewarding profession. It gives you a purpose to wake up in the morning knowing that you are going to make a difference in someone’s lives. It also is a profession that gives you a lot of opportunities to be creative. You will never have the same patient, therefore it is always a new and fun experience to get to know your patient and learn what they want to get out of their OT sessions. Once you get to know your patients it exciting to come up with treatment ideas that tie in their interest and their goals.
It is a unique profession that gives you so much flexibility that is different day-to-day. You won’t regret your decision to become on OT!
2. Nikki: A career in occupational therapy requires a lot of schooling. Make sure it is what you want prior to starting grad school or your associate’s degree. Shadow multiple, multiple clinics. Get a lot of different experiences to make sure you are 100 percent sure this is what you want before you go to school. You should also know that while you won’t become rich working in this field, you will be able to live comfortably and have a very rewarding career where there is a lot of job satisfaction.
It is currently very easy to find employment in this career and it is unlikely that you will be required to relocate to another city. The schedule at your job can be very flexible and it is very easy to work part-time (which is especially great as a working parent).
Working as an occupational therapy assistant is a rewarding experience that lets you make a difference in the lives of your patients every day. Through St. Catherine’s online OTA program, you can earn your associate’s degree online and become a certified occupational therapy assistant in just 16 months.
Want to learn more? Contact an admissions advisor today to find out about requirements, start dates, fieldwork, and online learning.