If you’re a recent grad with friends in the healthcare field, you may have heard the term “Occupational Therapy.” You may also be wondering what exactly an Occupational Therapist does.
To clear up confusion, here’s the lowdown on the field of Occupational Therapy, what kind of education you’ll need to succeed, and how you can improve somebody’s quality of life through this egg-citing career path!
What is Occupational Therapy?
Occupational therapy (or OT, for short) assists a person to participate in their occupation (or everyday living) to the best of their ability. To properly understand what an occupational therapist does, it’s important to know that an occupation isn’t just a paid day job – it’s activities that many people take for granted like going to school, moving around or doing housework.
Andy West, an OT student at Dalhousie University, says that defining OT can be challenging.
“Occupation is everything that an individual undertakes in their daily life. Due to the vast amount of activities that people do, ‘occupation’ is obviously a broad term. Simply put, OTs help individuals accomplish the goals they wish to complete during their day to day activities,” Andy said.
As an occupational therapist, you’ll work with people of different ages and abilities to help them overcome the challenges that they experience when trying to participate in their occupations.
Why go into Occupational Therapy?
“I chose to study OT because of its critical role in the health care system, its commitment to client-centered practice, and the importance of having a job that will never be the same on a daily basis,” Andy said.
OT isn’t just rewarding for the patient, but for the practitioner too.
“I’m most excited about having the satisfaction of knowing that what I did today, this month, or this year had a positive impact on someone’s life,” Andy said.
“If someone can become more independent, safer, or happier because of something that we have worked on together, then this is a career I can be excited and proud about.”
What do I need to study to get into this field?
Once you’ve received your undergraduate degree (which can be in many different fields, ranging from sociology to biology), you’ll need to apply to Master’s programs in Occupational Therapy.
Alongside this you’ll also have to complete 1000 hours of fieldwork. Once this is done, you’ll need to pass the certification examination from the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists or meet provincial registration qualifications.
Check out this link to learn more about each of the programs!
What can I do with my Occupational Therapy degree?
As an occupational therapist, you’ll work with patients to help them reach their potential. More specifically, job duties can include:
- Helping with mobility issues
- Managing pain from an injury or pre-existing medical condition (such as arthritis)
- Returning to work after a prolonged illness
- Helping patients manage tasks around the home after illness
- Help prevent long hospital stays
- Help keep patients motivated to learn
- Improve somebody’s quality of life
What skills are valuable in order to get into this field?
As an occupational therapist, you’ll be working closely with your patients, so having strong interpersonal skills will help develop those relationships. Being a good listener and having good written and oral communication skills are also important as you’ll be sharing information with the patient’s other healthcare providers.
When it comes to experiences that will be beneficial for your occupational therapy career, any time spent working with and assisting people will teach important lessons that you might not learn inside the classroom. If you’re looking to gain experience then check out your local health care centre or rehabilitation clinic and see if there are any spaces open for volunteers.