If you’re planning to pursue a career in the healthcare industry and want to do something fulfilling, consider occupational therapy. This profession has quickly grown in demand and popularity due to high job satisfaction and the meaningful impact it creates on patients’ lives. Additionally, there are many paths you can take in this field, depending on your interest.
So to help you figure out whether occupational therapy is the right career for you, check out the information below to learn more about the field.
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy (OT) is often misunderstood to be about vocational training due to its name. But in reality, it’s a healthcare profession that uses different therapeutic techniques to fully help people engage in their daily lives. In the context of OT, the term “occupation” refers to everyday activities you do to occupy time, including things you want and need to do.
Unlike other healthcare professions, OT is more holistic. It’s not focused on a particular injury or illness but instead aims to treat patients as a whole, so they can become more independent and ultimately have a better quality of life.
What Does an OT Do?
OTs therapeutic techniques to improve, maintain or develop their patients’ ability to perform daily activities like eating, dressing, cleaning, and the like. They work with patients of all ages and help them overcome barriers that prevent them from doing these tasks independently. Examples of interventions may include:
- Helping a stroke survivors with all aspects of rehabilitation to guide them through their recovery and return to daily life
- Assisting children with learning disabilities to improve sensory processing and motor skills through interactive games and adaptive aides
- Treating injured workers to help them get back to work with therapeutic activities designed for mobility, stability, and coordination
Generally, OTs have the same duties and responsibilities, though activities may vary based on your work setting. Most OTs work in hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, or private settings, but others may choose different places based on their specialization. For example, some may work in a nursing home if they enjoy treating the elderly, while others may choose a pediatric hospital to help children.
Key Roles and Responsibilities
As mentioned earlier, OTs use a holistic approach to healthcare, so they’re in charge of different tasks while working with patients. Some key responsibilities include:
- Assessing a patient’s overall condition
- Designing treatment plans designed to address a patient’s needs
- Adapting a patient’s work or home environment and vehicles
- Recommending the use of assistive equipment
- Developing physical rehabilitation programs
- Instructing patients’ caregivers or family members on how to assist with patient care
- Reviewing treatment progress and making adjustments as necessary
To become an OT, you first need to get a bachelor’s degree. Technically, there are no hard rules on what major you should choose, so long as you fulfil the required courses or units for your OT program. Afterwards, you have to enrol in an accredited OT program for your master’s degree, pass a certification exam, and get your state license.
While you finish up your education requirements, consider taking an occupational therapy internship along the way. You may need to do this for your fieldwork, but you can find internship opportunities even as an undergraduate. Internships are valuable since they give you hands-on experience in a clinical setting to prepare you for a future OT career. They’ll also give you an edge when applying for schools or work.
Like other professions, OTs must also have certain skills and qualities to succeed in the field. Of course, some key traits will be compassion, patience, and the enthusiasm to help people as you’ll be working closely with patients. Beyond this, you’ll also need:
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Ability to solve problems
- Flexibility and versatility
- Good time management skills
Who Needs Occupational Therapy?
OTs treat a wide range of concerns, such as musculoskeletal, orthopaedic, psychological, and neurodevelopmental needs. So to give you an idea of who may benefit from their practice, here are a few examples:
- Children with ADHD or learning disabilities
- Teens who have trouble regulating their emotions
- Adults who suffered from a workplace injury
- People recovering from a stroke, brain injury, or surgery
- Seniors with dementia or memory problems
Occupational therapy is undoubtedly a rewarding career as it allows you to empower people to live their lives to the fullest. As a plus, it’s one of the top healthcare fields with lucrative employment prospects as the demand for OT services continues growing. So if you’re passionate about helping others and making an impact in their lives, OT may be a suitable path to take.