What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?

What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do? image

What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?

After a serious medical event, everyday tasks, such as getting out of bed and even brushing teeth, can become impossible. Occupational therapy assistants work with occupational therapists to help people achieve these milestones and get back into the routine of living life.

Occupational therapy assistants vs. occupational therapists

While they perform similar functions, occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) are not the same as occupational therapists. The occupational therapist (OT) will evaluate the patient's needs and determine which treatments and exercises are the best fit for the patient's unique weaknesses. The occupational therapy assistant then helps implement the plan of care that the occupational therapist wrote through therapy and support activities.

The role of the occupational therapy assistant

An occupational therapy assistant's main goal is to make it possible for patients to return to an independent lifestyle after a serious medical event in whatever manner possible. They focus on the support activities and therapy exercises necessary to accomplish this.

For example, if a patient is paralyzed after a spinal cord injury, the OTA will work with an OT to help the patient learn to navigate the hallways of the workplace or school independently while using a wheelchair. On the other hand, if the patient is a stroke victim with the ability to regain the use of a limb, the OTA will work to help the patient overcome limitations to again use the hand independently.

Demand for occupational therapy assistants is on the rise

As the Baby Boomer generation ages and medical advances help people live longer, the demand for OTAs is increasing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 40 percent growth from 2014 to 2024. There was nearly 42,000 OTA jobs in 2014.

Within the field, wages vary significantly. Typically the home health care industry, nursing care facilities and offices of occupational, physical and speech therapist offices had the highest paid occupational therapy assistant positions.

Certification and training for occupational therapy assistants

If you are interested in pursuing a career as an OTA, you will need to start with an associate's degree in occupational therapy, at a minimum, from an accredited program. These degrees take a minimum of two years of training and have a fieldwork component to give the OTA on-the-job training. Most states require occupational therapy assistants to be licensed or registered. To earn licensure, individuals must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam for OTAs. Passing the NBCOT exam allows the individual to claim the title of Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. Maintaining licensure requires ongoing continuing education.

Occupational therapy assistants enjoy a fulfilling career centered on helping others. If you are interested in pursuing this career, start with the right training and certification, then move forward with confidence knowing you are entering a field that has a promising future.

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