Occupational therapist assistants work under the supervision of occupational therapists to provide health, wellness, and rehabilitative services in a multitude of areas. These assistants help clients with exercises and activities outlined in a treatment plan developed in collaboration with an occupational therapist. These activities range from teaching the proper method of moving from bed into a wheelchair to the best way to stretch the muscles of the hand. The age range of patients being treated by occupational therapy assistants range from newborns to geriatric patients.
Assistants monitor an individual’s activities to make sure that they are performed correctly and to provide encouragement. They also record the client’s progress for the occupational therapist. Examples of activities monitored and implemented by occupational therapist assistants include purposeful activity, creative arts, environmental modifications, adaptive equipment and technology, specific intervention techniques and therapeutic use of self to prevent, remediate or compensate for impairments that may otherwise limit a person from fully engaging in daily activities such as work, play or leisure.
- Offices of healthcare practitioners
- Rehabilitation centers
- Elementary and secondary schools
- Long-term care facilities
- Home health care
The work environment will depend on the specific work setting. In large rehabilitation centers, therapists assistants work in spacious rooms equipped with many home, living, and work settings to help patients adapt to/overcome physical or mental impairments. The work of occupational therapist assistants can be tiring because they are on their feet much of the time, and the work can involve lifting and moving clients and equipment. Work schedules vary by facility and whether the assistants are full time or part time. Many outpatient therapy offices and clinics have evening and weekend hours to coincide with patients’ schedules.
Employment of occupational therapist assistants is expected to increase 30 percent through the year 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. The outlook is especially good for therapists with formal training or experience. Increased demand will stem from the growing elderly population which is particularly vulnerable to the conditions requires therapeutic services. Occupational therapists are expected to increasingly employ assistants to reduce the cost of occupational therapy services. Once a patient is evaluated and a treatment plan is designed by the therapist, the occupational therapist assistant can provide many aspects of treatment, as prescribed.
- Compassion for people of all abilities
- Willingness to utilize research to guide practice
- Welcoming of diversity
- Able to work in multidisciplinary team settings, and independently with limited supervision
- Adaptive, creative and resourceful
- Ability to motivate people
- Patience and a desire to help others
Occupational therapy assistants must complete an educational program taking an average of 2 1/2 years of full time study to complete, and resulting in an associate degree. Typical programs of study include classes focused on the physical, social and behavioral sciences, and on occupational therapy-specific knowledge in the domains of art, theory and technique. Students must also complete at least 16 weeks of hands-on practical experience under the supervision of an occupational therapist of experience occupational therapist assistant.
Occupational therapy assistants must be licensed to practice. In Nebraska, an individual is eligible to sit for the National Registration Examination upon graduation from an OTA program at an accredited institution. Licensing is granted by the Nebraska Health and Human Services Department, and required passing the national certification exam and maintaining continuing education requirements.
Programs in Nebraska
- Central Community College – Grand Island (Associate)
Related / Links
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Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Occupational Therapist Assistants and Aides, on the Internet at www.bls.gov