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Occupational Therapist

Job Description

 

The goal of an occupational therapist is to help people, regardless of age, to engage fully in their daily lives.

Occupational therapists (OTs) work with people to help them function to the best of their ability, from work to recreational activities to the everyday tasks like getting dressed, cooking, eating and driving. It is a career that is in high demand with a bright outlook for employment.

By 2022, employment opportunities for occupational therapists are projected to increase by 29 percent. This is above the average growth for all occupations.

There are multiple choices for specialization if you train as an occupational therapist. You can specialize to work with premature babies in a pediatric hospital setting, or focus on working with children with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.

These practitioners focus on helping children succeed in the occupation of childhood, which includes learning, playing and growing. OTs work with students in schools who have behavioral problems or learning disabilities.

If working with children is not appealing to you, occupational therapists also work with elderly patients in their homes or in nursing home settings.

OTs are an important component of a health care team focused on helping elderly patients recover from strokes or cope with Alzheimer’s disease.

OTs also work with accident victims to help them regain lost skills, or an OT can choose to assist people with mental illness.

Occupational therapy is moving into new specialty areas, as well. OTs are helping to train workers to use the proper ergonomics in their jobs.

They are also helping people with low vision maintain their independence. They work with clients to make their buildings and homes more accessible, and evaluate and train older drivers.

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Responsibilities

 

Occupational therapy practitioners may perform a comprehensive evaluation of the client’s home and other important environments, such as the workplace or school.

OTs make recommendations for adaptive equipment and train the client in its use. They provide guidance and education for family members and caregivers.

OTs approach their clients from a holistic perspective in which they focus on adapting the environment to fit the condition of the client. OTs make the client a valuable part of the therapy team.

Occupational therapy services may typically include:

  • Promoting general health and wellness

  • Providing an individualized evaluation, working with the client and family to determine the client’s goals

  • Designing customized interventions to increase the client’s ability to carry out the activities of daily living and reach the goals they set

  • Providing an outcomes evaluation to monitor progress and ensure that goals are being met. Changes will be made to the intervention plan as needed.

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Skills

 

Physical Endurance

Must be able to be physical for many hours to help their patients as needed. They must be able to bend, twist, lift, crouch, kneel, push/pull, and the agility to move quickly and ensure patient safety.

Record Keeping

Must be able to collect and integrate patient histories to solve problems and develop treatments.

Emotional Stability

Must be able to handle the emotional stress of working with impaired patients in need of compassionate health care.

Multitasking

The ability to prioritize and manage multiple tasks simultaneously. 

Interpersonal

Must be able to interact with patients and their families regardless of background.

Reasoning

Must be able to apply facts and principles to issues to determine conclusions and solve problems. They must use knowledge and logic to find patters in injuries and determine causes and provide solutions.

Communication

Must be able to clearly convey thoughts and ideas to gauge patient's issues and convey to them the best path to treatment.

Empathy

Must be compassionate and able to empathize with a patient's pain and other difficulties. They are able to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves and let people know they care.

Patience

They must understand it takes time to see results and be willing to put in that time. They also must help their clients have patience--especially if they are trying to overcome a difficult injury.

Problem Solving

Must be able to use knowledge to gauge issues and determine the best route to recovery.

Dexterity

Must work well with your hands and be nimble.

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Working Conditions

 

Occupational therapists usually work a 40-hour week. Many of those hours are spent on their feet while working with patients.

OTs who work in schools may be required to stay after school at times for meetings or other activities. Part-time work is the choice for more than 30 percent of OTs.

Potential employment opportunities for occupational therapists can be found in the following areas:

  • Hospitals

  • Private occupational therapy practices

  • Public and private schools

  • Physicians’ offices

  • Nursing homes

  • Home health services

  • Assisted living facilities

  • Rehabilitation centers

 

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Salary Outlook