Occupational therapists (OTs) are allied health specialists that assist patients with physical impairments in improving their physical and mental health. Occupational therapists are key in allowing patients to engage in essential daily activities such as work, school, and socialization.
They also help those with physical impairments find and use strategies that support their participation in employment. They are essential in helping people with cognitive, physical, or developmental conditions that affect their capacity to carry out daily activities.
What are the roles and responsibilities of an occupational therapist?
Occupational therapists deal with individuals of all ages in a variety of settings, including patients in hospitals, rehabilitation institutions, private clinics, elderly care facilities, educational institutions, health clinics in the community, and governmental organizations. Through their interaction with their patients, occupational therapists perform six key roles and responsibilities, which are described below:
Help patients return to normal life: Occupational therapists aim to assist people in achieving independence, improving their quality of life, and minimizing limitations. The aim is that people with impairments can readily reintegrate into society after therapy.
Support their patients: People who are restricted by their health condition might receive assistance from occupational therapy. For example, occupational therapists may assist children with daily tasks, including eating, getting dressed, and going to school. OTs frequently work with children who have special needs.
Motivate their patients: Occupational therapy takes a holistic approach, rather than just focusing on a single element, such as a disability, illness, or injury, which makes it different from other fields of healthcare, such as nursing or physical therapy. Occupational therapy focuses on a patient’s overall well-being, including mental health, physical health, and diet, rather than concentrating on one particular illness or disability.
Evaluate the progress of their patients: With occupational therapists, every patient receives a unique set of interventions. They provide tailored solutions for patients of all genders and ages. If you have an older person with mobility challenges and a disabled youngster, OTs can easily offer a solution for both based on their specific needs and requirements.
Provide patients with treatment strategies: Occupational therapists use a variety of techniques, methods, and exercises to assist clients in managing daily tasks. They ensure that their patients can function at home and in the community.
Record keeping and writing reports: Reporting on client progress regularly is a significant duty of occupational therapists. OTs use progress reports to create, evaluate, and enhance therapy programs for their patients.
How to become an occupational therapist
Aspiring occupational therapists usually choose a bachelor’s program in physiology, geriatrics, pediatrics, physical and mental wellness, anatomy, or biology. Although they are not strictly necessary, these courses are a great option, and provide the opportunity to eventually progress to a master’s degree or a doctorate.
A doctorate-level education provides an excellent foundation for a successful career in occupational therapy. The Online Doctorate of Occupational Therapy offered by The American International College is a carefully designed course that allows students to study entirely online, providing them with complete flexibility to study as per their needs. The course is fully accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
What specialties are available in the field of occupational therapy?
Since occupational therapists work with all kinds of patients, there are many specialties within this field. Some of the most common are highlighted below.
Occupational therapy for autistic patients
Autistic patients who require assistance with the development of their motor abilities, learning techniques, social skills, and self-care may be treated by occupational therapists. When performing these regular tasks, they also assist patients with maintaining their independence. The duties of the OT vary from patient to patient since persons with autism have a range of needs. It is advised to earn your Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) designation.
Occupational therapy for diabetics
Occupational therapy can help diabetes patients better understand and control their condition. As they get older, many diabetes patients go through many changes. They often go from having their parents help to take care of their diabetes to taking care of it alone. For people who require assistance controlling their diabetes on their own and struggle to keep glucose levels stable, occupational therapy can be very effective. Specialized occupational therapists in diabetic care may educate patients, teach them how to keep track of their blood sugar levels, support the development of good behaviors, and promote medication compliance.
Occupational therapists for mental health
Depending on the mental health or condition of the patient, this kind of OT assists patients in learning how to be as self-sufficient as possible and manage a range of symptoms. They aid their patients in feeling secure and at ease and assist them in responding correctly to various life circumstances that might be impeded by their condition. Patients receiving this kind of OT could also receive individualized coping skills to help them deal with stressful situations.
Occupational therapy for stroke victims
An occupational therapist specializing in stroke therapy can help stroke patients regain essential skills required to cope with daily life that their stroke may have impacted. This could include examining environmental, social, and physical aspects of a patient’s life to provide appropriate care, and encouraging patients to engage in routine activities while taking into consideration their limitations.
OTs are also involved in assessing an individual’s driving skills and offering advice on safer driving. They can also advise on how to make a patient’s surroundings safer and educate caregivers on proposed adjustments to the patient’s care and surroundings to foster their independence.
To the best of their ability, this kind of OT works to assist patients in returning to the activities they were engaged in before their stroke. They must be CSRS or certified experts in stroke rehabilitation.
Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics
A pediatric occupational therapist works with kids to help them properly develop and socialize. This kind of occupational therapist evaluates the child’s requirements, identifying any delays or possible barriers in typical development. Helping children grow into independent adults is the aim, and they should become board certified in pediatrics (BCP).