Occupational Therapists play critical role in patient care, independence
April is National Occupational Therapy Month, and we want to highlight the roles Occupational Therapists (OTs) play in providing care for patients and ensuring they have the highest level of independence possible when planning to return home.
Occupational Therapy Overview
Occupational therapy (OT) is the only profession to help people across all ages do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). OTs enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, prevent and better cope with injury, illness, or disability.
A few examples of daily activities include cooking, feeding, dressing, folding laundry, and other skills necessary for independence.
Common occupational therapy interventions may include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing support for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. Occupational therapy services typically include:
• an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals,
• customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
• an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.
OTs have a holistic approach that focuses on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the person.
Becoming an OT
There are going to be many opportunities for OTs in the senior care profession in the decade to come. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates there are 76.4 million Baby Boomers. By 2029, the last of the Baby Boomers will hit retirement age, and the health care needs of these individuals are going to jump dramatically.
Baby Boomers will enter this new health care market with different medical conditions than previous generations. They may face obesity, diabetes, heart conditions, high-blood pressure, cholesterol levels, cancer and more. When this generation reaches retirement age, there will be an increased need for nursing homes and greater communication with other health providers in the community.
Typically, those pursuing a career in occupational therapy earns a bachelor’s degree. Most OT graduate programs can accept any undergraduate field of study, but courses in biology, psychology, anthropology, or sociology are relevant fields of study.
Master's degree programs train you to observe how patients perform their daily activities, identify areas where patient is having difficulties, analyze the root causes and implement plans to improve their abilities to function. Course topics might include task analysis, musculoskeletal anatomy, neuroscience, physical interventions, and mental health therapy.
As part of a master's degree program, supervised fieldwork must be completed either at an appropriate health care or therapeutic center. This requirement provides an opportunity to put theory into practice, receive patient feedback on the effectiveness, and meet professional standards.
After earning a master's degree, OTs need to register for the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) exam, which is required by all states (www.nbcot.org). Passing the OTR exam will qualify you for licensure. Each state maintains its own eligibility requirements, and may have additional licensure requirements, such as certifications or courses.
OTs should consider specializing after gaining experience and expertise in treating a specific kind of patient or ailment. This may require you to earn a doctorate in occupational therapy with a concentration in areas such as gerontology, pediatrics or physical rehabilitation.
Author: Brandon S. Totten
Community Relations Manager, AMFM Nursing & Rehabilitation Centers