Occupational Therapy - education and career
Most people have never heard of occupational therapy. I am often asked by my patients if I am there to return them to the workforce. The answer is - not necessarily.
Starting out pre-med in college, I quickly determined that my inability to do the chemistry work was going to wrangle me right out of that career path. Exploring several other health-care careers, I began looking into therapy. Of course, I was checking out physical therapy. It was only on a fluke, sitting in the hall at the student services building, that I overheard a counselor telling another student about the soon-to-be-open occupational therapy program at the university. The more I heard, the more I liked it.
What It Is
Occupational therapy is just that - it's therapy that returns a person to their previous occupations, either directly or via adaptation. Occupations consist of that which takes up our time. For children, play is their occupation. Students take notes. Mothers carry their children. Retirees cook and garden. Administrative assistants type. The things that occupy your time throughout the day are your occupations. People typically have several occupations and life roles throughout a single day.
After learning that occupational therapy would afford a career of creativity and endless opportunities, I signed up. The program was intense, no doubt - 2 years of anatomy, kinesiology, pathology, neurology, ethics, business, geriatrics, pediatrics, and so on. The small class of 20 quickly bonded together, we became our own support group.
So many places to start the career path . . . school systems, pediatric clinics and children's hospitals, nursing homes, acute rehab, acute care, out-patient care, home health, psychiatric day programs. There's a niche for every OT out there. Mine ultimately has been with adults. Out-patient care has been great - what a learning experience about the hand and upper arm. Cleaning wounds is second nature now, along with the application of electrical stimulation and ultrasound. Rehab and nursing home care have been equally educational, with the exposure to different diagnoses, not just physical but also mental. The most rewarding part is to see that person's face light up when they realize that they CAN do the task at hand with their new technique or equipment.
What It Takes
I have been told by many patients that I have the patience of a saint, or the patience of Job. It takes a lot of patience, willingness to wait, the ability to encourage, the resources to adapt, and influence to maximize each person's potential. After all, everything they do is therapy.
OT is Recession-Proof!
OT has been listed as one of the top recession-proof jobs in the country! With the baby-boomer population aging, and nursing homes changing over to rehab centers, there is actually a national shortage of occupational therapists and assistants.
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