Occupational Therapy: A Quick Guide for Prospective Professionals

 May 6, 2021

Is occupational therapy a good career?

Well, that depends on what the ideal job is for you. If you want to get into the healthcare field and work directly with patients to improve their lives, pursuing a career as an OT is a great choice. However, if you prefer working with other doctors and not dealing with patients directly, then you’re more suited for a job like medical supervision, management or analysis.

That was the short answer.

And although it gives you a good overview, it’s not enough to make a career decision. There are many more things you need to consider – among which the most important are the following three:

  • Responsibilities of an OT?
  • Benefits of being an OT?
  • What does a typical day look like in the life of an OT?

By getting the answers to these three questions, you can get a good idea of whether pursuing a career in occupational therapy will be worth your time and effort. Let’s look at in-depth answers to these questions.

The Responsibilities of an Occupational Therapist

As an OT, you will work with all kinds of people — from kids to adults, ranging from elderly people who need simple adaptations to patients who need support adapting to life after a major surgery.

Your specific duties will depend on the field of work; OTs working in hospitals have different duties than those working in schools or a community. However, like every OT, you will be responsible for the following duties:

  • Figuring out the right treatment for your patients
  • Providing the treatment to your patients and walking them through the process of treatment
  • Giving advice and support to family members and caregivers of the patient
  • Performing general administrative tasks, such as writing reports, making telephone calls, and maintaining records or comprehensive case notes
  • Liaising with doctors, caregivers, and other professionals who are treating the patient and keeping them updated
  • Reviewing progress and modifying the treatment plan as necessary

The Benefits of Being an Occupational Therapist

OTs enjoy many benefits. In fact, according to the U.S. News and World Report, a career as an OT is one of the best and most pursued jobs in the healthcare industry because it has above-average mobility.

What that means is a career in occupational therapy offers less stress, greater work-life balance, and more opportunities for advancement than other healthcare jobs.

Among the many benefits OTs enjoy, the following five are arguably the most attractive:

  • A comfortable salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, OTs make a median salary of $84,950 per annum and $40.84 per hour.
  • Multiple work settings: As an OT, you have the option to choose from a wide variety of work settings, including hospitals, rehab facilities, school systems, pediatric outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities, and adult outpatient clinics.
  • Job satisfaction: According to this survey, 94% of school-based OTs and 67% of non-school OTs reported being well-satisfied with their jobs.
  • Multiple areas of specialization: As an OT, you have the option to choose from a wide variety of areas to specialize in, including geriatrics, neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, critical care, and cardio-respiratory.

Chances of being employed?

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the healthcare industry will grow by 14% from 2018 to 2028, which means that nearly 1.9 million new healthcare job positions will be created in the next decade. The demand for OTs will not go down anytime soon. 

A Day in the Life of an Occupational Therapist

As with every healthcare profession, the specifics of the day-to-day tasks of an OT vary because of regular changes in several factors such as patient type and treatment method.

That being said, OTs spend most of their days following the same routine.

So, here’s what you can expect a typical day to go like for you as an OT:

The Morning Session

You will have to arrive at your office by 8:00 am and start preparing for the day ahead. Before your patients arrive, you will work on accomplishing the following:
  • Gathering all tools, equipment, and paperwork
  • Ensuring the therapy area is in order and properly stocked
  • Reviewing notes from previous sessions and conferring with colleagues as necessary for particular cases to ensure you’re on the same page
All that will take up the first couple of hours of your day. Then, your patients will start coming in and you will spend the remaining hours up till lunchtime providing therapy.
After taking a break at lunch, next up will be your evening session.

The Evening Session

From around 1:30 to 3:30 pm, you will work directly with your patients – providing therapy, reviewing progress, or exploring and explaining all treatment possibilities.
You will end your day the same way you started it: in preparation. So in the last half hour or so, you will finalize patient notes and review the upcoming day’s schedule. That means you will leave your office around 4:00 pm.

So summing up, your typical day will start at 8:00 am and end by 4:00 pm. During those eight hours, you will have to work constantly with only one break in-between.

There you have it.

In-depth answers to the most important questions. Now, all you have to do to make your decision is to ask yourself these three simple questions:

  • Do the benefits of being an OT outweigh the responsibilities?
  • Do I want to work directly with patients to improve their lives?
  • Will I be comfortable following the traditional routine of occupational therapists?

If your answer is yes to all three questions, then occupational therapy is an ideal career choice for you!

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