Occupational Therapist Assistant

Many occupational therapists are now taking on supervisory roles by hiring assistants and aides to help them with their duties. These occupational therapists assistants and aides are closely monitored by the therapist as they carry out a number of responsibilities and tasks.

What to Expect

An occupational therapist assistant is responsible to perform a number of tasks set down by the therapist. Perhaps the most important task is the rehabilitation of patients. Like occupational therapists, occupational therapist assistants are concerned with helping patients achieve a better quality of life.

This is done through a series of exercises and tasks set down by the occupational therapist. Occupational therapy is a closely regulated and monitored career path. The assistants and aides are only allowed to perform certain tasks. While the therapist can outline exercises and tasks for the patients the occupational therapist assistant may be the one monitoring and tracking any progress the patients makes with the exercises.

The occupational therapist assistant will closely observe the patient making notes on improvement or any difficulties and complications that may arise. If the patient fails to improve given the current exercise routine the assistant will inform the therapist. Afterwards, the therapist will develop a new exercise plan for the patient.

The occupational therapist assistant will also instruct patients in the proper way to perform certain exercises and tasks. They will demonstrate the appropriate way to exit a wheel chair or how to perform a series of stretches as set down by the therapist.

The occupational therapist assistant will also complete clerical tasks such as filling out paperwork, filing insurance forms, and setting appointments.

Occupational therapist aides differ from assistants in that they are not allowed to perform many of the tasks the assistants are. Aides generally focus on clerical duties as well as basic office upkeep and scheduling appointments.

Education, Training, and Certification

Occupational therapists assistants must go through a school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. The prospective assistant must earn an associate degree through this program. They will then take the national certifying exam before being assigned the title of occupational therapist assistant.

The program covers;

  • Healthcare
  • Medical terminology
  • Anatomy
  • Mental health
  • Adult disabilities
  • Pediatrics

The students must also complete supervised field work.

For those individuals interested in this field there are high school courses that one can take to provide a foundation for future study. It is important to take courses like biology and general healthcare. Volunteering in nursing homes and other health care facilities is also recommended.

On the other hand, a physical therapist aide is not required to complete such rigorous training. A high school diploma is enough to gain an entry level into the field.

Occupational therapist assistants must also display qualities such as;

  • An outgoing attitude
  • Friendly demeanor
  • Willingness to take the initiative
  • Integrity
  • Patience

Certification is available for those wishing to receive it. While not required many choose to seek it in order to bolster their salaries and improve their chances for advancements.

Many occupational therapist assistants move on to lead administrative roles or choose to further their career by attending school to become an occupational therapist.

Employment Options

Occupational therapists assistants can be found in any facility that employs an occupational therapist. This includes;

  • Hospitals
  • Private clinics
  • Nursing homes
  • At home care
  • Schools

Occupational aides will be found in more office setting given the duties that they are allowed to perform.

Employment Outlook

Occupational therapists assistants will continue to be in demand as more and more therapist chooses to take on supervisory roles. As therapist hire more assistants there will continue to be a demand for highly trained and qualified professionals.

Projected Salary

Occupational therapists assistants will earn more than aides since they are responsible for more tasks. On average an occupational therapist assistant will earn $40,000.

The editors of McGraw-Hill and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor  Statistics, The Big Book of Jobs, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012-2013 ©2009 by the McGraw-Hill Companies,  Material "Adapted"

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