Occupational therapists are some of the most underrated professionals in the healthcare industry. More than physical rehabilitation, occupational therapists focus on helping patients mentally, emotionally, and physically in their everyday lives. The goal is to teach these patients how to live independent and healthy lives despite cognitive and physical challenges. Let’s take a closer look at occupational therapists, how they help their patients, and some areas in which they can specialize.
What does an occupational therapist do?
Occupational therapists (OTs) are healthcare professionals who work with patients who need help with various life skills, whether relearning them or learning them for the first time. At first glance, the name might seem confusing, and some wonder what “occupational” therapy even means. It might help to consider what an occupation means in your life. For many, the word symbolizes a responsibility, job, or activity. Occupational therapists work with patients so they can perform tasks that are critical to their daily life.
If you’re still wondering, ‘What does a doctor of occupational therapy do?’ you aren’t alone. Occupational therapists do a few different things to help their patients thrive. They use their advocacy and leadership abilities to influence policies surrounding occupational therapy research, education, and practice, whether local, national, or global, in ways that benefit patients. They work one-on-one with patients to improve their life skills and on their own or with other scholars to advance the field. The exact responsibilities of occupational therapists can also vary depending on their educational background. A respected program like the one offered by American International College (AIC) will help students master all the skills they need to tackle these diverse job requirements. AIC’s Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate prepares students to take on advanced research and leadership roles.
Due to their broad scope of work, OTs are incredibly important professionals in the lives of a wide range of patients. Some professionals work with mentally ill patients needing care and support to improve their daily functioning. In contrast, others focus on helping elderly patients cope with limited physical abilities, the onset of dementia, or injuries. From children to the elderly, OTs dedicate their time to helping their patients thrive.
If we can summarize all of that with a simple phrase, OTs are professionals who make life better in utterly overwhelming circumstances. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that OTs are sometimes the difference between an independent and happy life and a permanently lowered quality of life from an accident or illness.
Career Pathways in occupational therapy
Are you interested in learning more about a career in occupational therapy? The good news is that the field is full of specialization opportunities as you achieve further educational qualifications. Let’s look at some of the programs you can expect to complete while studying to become an OT and how you’ll move beyond the classroom and pick a specialty.
The first thing you should know before beginning your educational journey into occupational therapy is that the process won’t be quick. While it is certainly possible to move through your education quicker than some other students if you decide to study full-time, you won’t complete just a single degree throughout your studies. You will meet at least two, but more likely three, before you call yourself a professional occupational therapist.
First, you must complete a bachelor’s degree in a field related to occupational therapy. The most common undergraduate degrees aspiring OTs complete include biology, kinesiology, physiology, and health sciences. Singight be a good idea. Ask about the value of these degrees to your career and your thoughts about specialization im It might be a good idea to speak with an academic counselor before you pick your undergraduate degree. pact the best choice.
Once you have completed your undergraduate degree, you are ready to move on to your first graduate degree. OTs must meet a master’s in occupational therapy after earning their undergraduate degree. This is the first field-specific program you will meet. You won’t be working in an academic-only setting once you’ve graduated, so it only makes sense to bridge the gap between academic and practical knowledge before you seek full-time employment. This is another area where speaking with an academic counselor or occupational therapy professional can help. Ask about school and program recommendations as you apply for admission. After earning your master’s degree, you can become a practicing occupational therapist.
However, if you want to expand your knowledge further, you can work towards a doctorate. A doctorate in occupational therapy can help you focus on specialties you find interesting in occupational therapy. The best doctorate programs will offer students valuable placements in hospitals, health clinics, and other medical facilities where OTs typically work.
The next step is to pick your specialty.
Just as there are many other occupations, there are different specializations you can choose from as an OT. Some OTs work exclusively with patients struggling with sleep issues, for example. This allows them to help patients adapt their daily routine to function despite a lack of sleep and promote lifestyle changes to help remedy the core sleep issue. Other OTs work with the elderly as they seek to maintain or regain mobility and cognitive function, perhaps after an illness, an injury, or simple disuse. OTs may also work with children as they develop fine motor skills and take bigger roles in their social circle. There are other specialization options we haven’t mentioned either. The sky is the limit when it comes to a fulfilling career in occupational therapy.
Are you interested in learning more about OT and how you could help other people live healthy, independent lives? Keep the information above in mind as you begin your educational journey!