Nurse, Doctor, Respiratory, and Medical Assistant: there are a lot of careers in healthcare, but none are quite as misunderstood as the Occupational Therapist. These professionals play a pivotal role in hospital and home recovery from a variety of maladies including stroke, major surgery, and heart attack. A basic summary of the job of an Occupational Therapist is provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS:
“Occupational therapists help clients to perform all types of activities, from using a computer to caring for daily needs such as dressing, cooking, and eating. Physical exercises may be used to increase strength and dexterity, while other activities may be chosen to improve visual acuity or the ability to discern patterns.”
Patients or clients as they are known, of Occupational Therapists suffer from mild to severe conditions. Individuals that are good candidates for the help of an Occupational professional include memory loss, developmentally disabled, the elderly, and those suffering from permanent disabilities. Patients suffering from spinal cord injuries, stroke, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy need specialized care in daily tasks that only an Occupational Therapist can render. Some examples of specific care protocols might entail exercises to improve hand-eye coordination; software programs to help improve decision-making, abstract-reasoning, and problem-solving; utilize adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, eating aids, and dressing aids.
The Occupational field requires highly specialized and intensive training. A master’s degree or higher is usually required to work as an Occupational Therapist with coursework in physical, biological, and behavioral sciences as well as field application of theory and skills. In order to sit for the national exams, a candidate must graduate from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Accredited programs require a minimum of two years supervised fieldwork as part of the curriculum. This is also a highly regulated field with all 50 states having licensure requirements.
Physicians will work closely with Occupational Therapists on a long term care plan for their patients. Access to these highly trained professionals usually comes from physician referral, health care agencies, and other professional organizations. Patients who have had a traumatic event in their lives can turn to an Occupational Therapist to help get them get back to a normal daily routine.