Are you looking for a career path in which you can make a positive impact on the lives of others? If so, you should consider going into occupational therapy as your vocation. These professionals help their patients in incredible, life-changing ways. Our Online Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at St. Catherine University offers the opportunity to fast-track into the career in as few as 16 months.
Before we get into all the reasons why occupational therapy is important, let’s go over some of the basics.
What Is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy is a subset of the healthcare field that focuses on patients with limitations. Occupational therapy professionals help these patients complete everyday tasks and lead satisfying lives. Sometimes therapy helps individuals gain or regain certain skills, while other times it means helping the patient find a new way to do things to adapt to their abilities. These professionals see a wide variety of patients, ranging from those recovering from an injury to individuals born with developmental disorders. While each patient and intervention may look different, the goal is ultimately the same: increase the patient’s level of independence.
What Do OTs and OTAs Do?
Now that you have a general understanding of the field, you’re probably wondering, what exactly do these professionals do?
Generally, if you are considering going into occupational therapy, you’ll have the choice of becoming an occupational therapist (OT) or an occupational therapy assistant (OTA). While they have different roles and responsibilities, OTs and OTAs work together to develop and carry out treatment plans for their patients.
Occupational therapists usually hold a more managerial role and are responsible for developing treatment plans for their patient. OTAs, on the other hand, are the ones who implement the treatment plans and interact with patients in a more hands-on way.
Why Occupational Therapy Is Important
Occupational therapy is important because, unlike with other healthcare professions, it takes every aspect of their patient’s lives into account, not only immediate issues. Working in the occupational therapy field, you’ll have the opportunity to spend more time with your patients and watch them progress. You’ll also have to get to know them on a deeper level to understand their lifestyle and daily habits so that you can effectively help them work their way toward independence.
Role of Occupational Therapy in a Team of Professionals
As an OT or an OTA, your work often comes after patients have already interacted with doctors and nurses. If a patient has had an accident or severe health event, the next step after they’re safe and stabilized is to help them recover their lifestyle. As an OT or OTA, it is your job to help them resume that life with as few limitations as possible.
Keep in mind that you’ll be a part of a bigger team working together to help your patient. At times you’ll need to interact with other members of the patient’s care team, so your ability to communicate effectively is paramount.
In some cases, you may also interact with professionals outside the healthcare field, including social workers and teachers. Additionally, expect to work closely with families. Learning how to navigate family interactions and explain the care plan in laymen’s terms is key. Often family members help the patient integrate therapy into their everyday lives, so it’s important that they understand the care plan.
How Occupational Therapists Can Influence Their Patients’ Lives
Occupational therapy can impact many areas of patients’ lives. While most people are not surprised that occupational therapy helps patients’ physical bodies, you may not realize the emotional and social impacts, as well.
For example, a child with a developmental disability may learn fine motor skills that will help them carry out daily tasks. However, they may also learn skills that help regulate behavior or help the child pay attention in class. You can see how occupational therapy truly can touch every aspect of people’s lives.
Current Demand for OTs and OTAs
As the immense value of occupational therapy is becoming recognized, the field continues to grow. Both occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants can expect a higher-than-average job growth rate, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that OTs will experience a 14% increase in job outlook and OTAs will have a 25% increase from 2021-2031. And with the option of working in a variety of settings and specialties, you’re likely to find a position that suits your life and interest.
St. Kate’s Can Help You Achieve Your Goals
If you are excited about the prospect of a career in which you can make a difference in people’s lives, we are here to help. St. Kate’s University has an Online OTA program designed to help you get into the field and begin your career in as little as 16 months. Our program can be completed in such a short time because of the structure of our curriculum. It is comprised of 80% online coursework and 20% in-person components, which include skills labs and fieldwork.
While our courses are presented in a non-traditional, online format, students can still expect the same level of rigor and support they’d experience in a classroom setting. Online courses provide a high level of convenience, but our students still need to meet deadlines. And, of course, St. Kate students will have access to faculty members who will be happy to answer any questions.
Skills labs will be your opportunity to put the knowledge you’ve gained in your online courses into practice. Our highly experienced instructors will guide your learning in a real-world rehabilitation setting. During these labs, you can expect to go over the six core areas of occupational therapy practice, including:
- Children and youth
- Productive aging
- Health and wellness
- Mental health
- Rehabilitation and disability
- Work and industry
By exploring each of these areas, you can gain a better understanding of your own interests and strengths.
Once you’ve gained foundational knowledge, you’ll see it in action during the fieldwork portion of the program. You will experience a variety of occupational therapy specialties and, with supervision, will be able to practice interacting with patients. This will be a good chance for you to try out different specialties, settings and patient populations, which can help you decide which direction you’d like your career to go.
Are You Ready to Start Making a Difference?
Now that you know why occupational therapy is important and a good career choice, as well as how St. Kate’s can help you get your foot in the door, it’s time to get started on your OTA education. Through St. Kate’s OTA program, you can graduate in as little as 16 months so you can get out there and start making a difference. Contact us today to speak to an advisor who can help you start your application.