Beginning April 1st, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is promoting a month-long celebration of the “Healthcare Heroes” that help tens of thousands of patients improve or regain physical and cognitive capabilities. In the United States alone, there are over 113,000 Occupational Therapists and 38,000 OT Assistants. These “Healthcare Heroes” are helping children with disabilities participate in school and the community, assisting persons recover from accidents or injuries, and aiding the elderly in staying as independent as possible.
Occupational therapy has been in practice since the first World War as returning soldiers who were injured or disabled needed to learn new skills. These early therapists worked in hospital and military settings training the soldiers in new occupations based on their capabilities after being injured in the war. Since that time, the profession has evolved towards a more medical emphasis.
Today, one can find Occupational Therapists (OT) and OTA’s across a broad range of settings, including hospitals, schools, nursing homes, programs for the disabled, home health care settings, outpatient clinics, early intervention programs, and rehabilitation centers. In addition to delivering treatments, OT’s provide a variety of services to those who are injured, elderly, or disabled. These include performing evaluations and assisting their patients acquire adaptive equipment, wheelchairs, and assistive technologies.
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Heather Moyse of Canada, a Certified Occupational Therapist, shared her thoughts on a career in Occupational Therapy in an interview with Mediaplanet, “A career in healthcare can be extremely rewarding. You are put in a position to see people in their most vulnerable state – a position of utmost trust and respect.” She continued about how practicing as an OT would allow her an opportunity to inspire and motivate her clients.
For those just entering the profession or studying to become an OT, future employment prospects look very bright. Contributing to this outlook is an aging population, enhanced technologies that are positively impacting rehabilitative therapies, and increased government services for individuals with disabilities. Today’s OT’s will need at least a master’s degree in occupational therapy while an OTA will need an associate’s degree from an accredited OTA program. This investment in education would appear to be a good one as the salary outlook is strong for OT’s and OTA’s. In addition, their patient population will continue to grow as individuals continue seeking non-invasive treatments for long-term disabilities or illnesses, and also look for treatment in their homes or residential care environments.
While April is the chosen month to celebrate those in the Occupational Therapy profession, the amazing work they do for those in need makes them deserving of celebration year round. Please leave us a comment below and share how you plan to celebrate OT month or leave us a note on our Facebook page.