Occupational Therapy Assistants
Occupational therapy is an important resource to people of all ages and in a diverse range of environments.
- Occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapist assistants (OTAs) help children or young adults with disabilities gain the skills and/or abilities for these students to benefit from being in school environments and interacting with other students.
- For older adults who are experiencing physical or cognitive disabilities, OTs and OTAs are able to plan and teach those adults how to regain or maintain the ability to perform daily activities in their normal home or work environments.
- For patients who are recovering from injury, OTs and OTAs can play important roles in helping patients relearn or improve the skills that patients need to live and work independently. While OTs plays a vital role in healthcare, in this entry, I am going to focus on occupational therapy assistants (OTAs).
OTAs work directly with patients under the supervision of OTs. Great interpersonal skills are useful in motivating patients to accomplish exercises, which are needed to help patients regain or relearn skills. For example, OTAs might teach a patient how to move from a wheelchair into a bed and vice versa; or work with a patient with Parkinson’s disease on ways to use tools and utensils in light of worsening tremors or rigidity. While the patient is performing the exercises, the OTA observes the patient to make sure the patient is performing the skills correctly and documents the patient’s progress. The OTA then communicates the patient’s success or lack of progress with the OT so care plans can be adjusted.
Additional skills that are important to those who are interested in becoming an OTA include:
- an interest in working with people
- an interest in providing instruction on performing exercises or tasks
- physical strength to sometimes help disabled or debilitated patients
- good observation and communication skills
The work environment can vary for the OTA depending on the patient’s need. Sometimes, OTAs work in the patient’s home, while in many instances, OTAs work in physical or occupational therapy offices, hospitals, nursing homes, or schools.
To become an OTA, you must complete an accredited program and earn an associate’s degree. Then, applicants must satisfy New York State licensure requirements, which include passing the certified occupational therapy assistant exam. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 43% growth for this occupation between 2010 and 2020. Next month, we will look at occupational therapy aides!
Jenny Tsang-Quinn M.D. is the Executive Director for the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (NYACH). At NYACH, Jenny is overseeing a project that engages healthcare employers in the analysis of current and future labor force needs and partners with workforce training organizations to meet those needs.
On the 2nd Friday of each month, Jenny will share advice and insight on jobs in the healthcare industry. If you have a question or comment for Jenny, drop her a note below. And, don’t forget to share this with your friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.