A career working as an occupational therapy assistant is best situated to someone who enjoys helping others, as well as possesses a high level of patience and compassion. Make no mistake this can be a challenging career, but can also be considered an exceptionally rewarding one too. Not everyone is cut out to work in this industry as it does take a lot of communication skills. Assistants often find themselves dealing with patients who will take time to make progress. An occupational therapist assistant often works with those that have trouble with the very basics of communication, specifically how the brain is able to communicate with the body. The therapist requires a number of communicative, and clinical skills to go along with an attitude that includes patience and compassion.
What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?
An occupational therapy assistant does just what their name implies, they assist an occupational therapist with their daily tasks, and help them with the treatment protocols for patients that are in need of occupational therapy. An occupational therapist has a higher level of education than that of a an occupational therapist assistant (OTA). An occupational therapist will have studied 6-7 years to complete their credentials, as where the assistant is currently required to study to 2 years.
The assistants tasks will be to carry out the protocol and treatment plans set out by the occupational therapist with the patients that they see. They will be responsible for documenting any progress and communicating back to the occupational therapist. The OTA may be teaching skills to patients such as: teaching a patient with a brain injury how to dress themselves, to a simple as teaching basic strength and stretch exercises. An OTA may also be responsible for paper work, and clerical work depending on the workplace setting.
The reason that this can be a difficult career is the type of patients that the OTA will be working with. An occupational therapy assistant will work with individuals with all types of developmental issues (both physical and mental of all ages, from young children to seniors) as well as those that have suffered brain injury, motor impairment, and stroke. An occupational therapy assistants goal is to assist patients to increase their ability so they can complete activities of daily living more independently and efficiently.
Educational Requirements for an Occupational Therapy Assistant
In the United States an occupational therapy assistant must complete 2 years of full time study at an accredited school. The accreditation body for occupational therapy assistant schools is the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). There are currently 130 plus ACOTE accredited schools across the nation for those who wish to study this profession.
The program of study will have a heavy course load in human conditions, as well as medical terminology. Students must be confident in communicating and understanding all types of conditions before they enter the work force. Part of the program will be hands on clinical training of no less than 16 weeks. This allows students the ability to gain first hand experience with patients, while working under the guidance of professional occupational therapists.
Typical Workplace Settings for an Occupational Therapy Assistant
According the latest statistics we have from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were an estimated 27 000 individuals working as occupational therapy assistants in the United States. Of that the statistics tell us roughly 9000 were employed at rehabilitation offices or clinics. 5400 were employed at nursing care facilities, and over 4200 were employed at surgical or general hospitals. Those 3 sectors count for over 70% of all those employed as of may 2010. Other areas where a qualified occupational therapy assistant may find employment may be home health services (visiting patients in their homes), as well as some are employed at institutions for the mentally ill.
Overall an occupational therapist assistant has a wide range of skills based on their education. They can work in a number of different settings with their skill set, and currently are very in demand. Between 2008 and 2018 there is to be a 30% increase in the number of occupational therapy assistants working in the United States. The average occupational therapy assistant salary is currently $51,010 per year as of May 2010.
Now is an excellent time to be studying this profession, and now is an excellent time to be working as an occupational therapy assistant.