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Occupational Therapy Trends for 2016

Consistently ranked near the top of the listings of best jobs in healthcare, Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) have a career with a very bright future.  As people are working well into their 60’s and the baby boomer generation ages, therapies that help individuals maintain their independence, recover from ailments and improve the quality of life will remain in high demand.
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Consistently ranked near the top of the listings of best jobs in healthcare, Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs) have a career with a very bright future.  As people are working well into their 60’s and the baby boomer generation ages, therapies that help individuals maintain their independence, recover from ailments and improve the quality of life will remain in high demand.  In addition to the above average job prospects for the coming year, let’s take a look at some top Occupational Therapy trends that will be in the news in 2016 and beyond.

OTs Role in Primary Care Coordination.  Before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), patient care revolved more around the volume of services than the quality and value of care.  Guidelines and reimbursement models implemented with the ACA have changed that mentality to more team-based, outcome driven models of care.  As that transformation continues, OTs are becoming more engaged as partners in the Care Coordination model.  OT professionals are well-suited for this change due to their well-rounded skills, broad educational base, and creativity in analyzing and developing holistic intervention plans.

Engineering and Occupational Therapy.  Engineers and Occupational Therapists typically have the same goals in their profession, to help individuals do what they want and need to do.  While stated simplistically, it is no less true.  That alignment in mission is leading to greater collaborations between OTs and Engineers.  One prime example of this collaboration is in the area of assistive technology (AT) to support individuals with disabilities.  For OTs, advancing technologies are becoming an increasingly more common option for use with client supports and interventions.  Look for the Engineering and OT collaborations to continue as the field of robotics plays a role in supporting stroke rehabilitation and recovery.  Conversely, OTs will play an integral role in ensuring that technological advances aren’t just pushed into development without the necessary client-focus.

Travel Therapy.  As healthcare systems struggle with the changing landscape resulting from ACA regulations, staffing shortages and provider reimbursement cuts, therapists in traditional settings are working longer hours with many suffering burn out. Increasingly, OTs are turning to the world of travel healthcare to reignite their career.  The travel option continues to grow as providers are using short term assignments to cover shortages and reduce the stress on full-time staff.  Healthcare workforce providers, such as Supplemental Health Care, are increasingly making it easier for healthcare professionals to join the ranks of travelers by offering attractive wages, benefits, and perks.  Demand for OTs remains high, meaning that travelers will have abundant choices for 13-week and longer travel/work destinations for the foreseeable future.

Occupational Science.  The emergence of Occupational Science began in the early 1990s as an analytic, data-driven mechanism to understand human time use.  Developed by a group of occupational therapists at the University of Southern California, occupational science has become a means to support and more fully understand the application of occupational therapies.  Utilizing supporting information via occupational science, OTs are continuing to develop new and innovative interventions and treatments helping individuals to live healthier and maintain independence as they age.

Utilization of Sonograms in OT.  While MRI’s and other imaging techniques are used for diagnosis and rehabilitation of injuries, the application of these methods has not been prominent in the OT world, due to prohibitive costs and other shortcomings.  One medical imaging method that is becoming increasingly popular in OT clinical applications is sonography.  Sonographic imaging has many benefits over other technologies, including affordability, efficiency, visible real-time movement of tissues, and no radiation or side effects.  Another important aspect of introducing sonography into OT interventions is the ability to use the real-time imaging as a teaching tool in helping the patient establish the critical benefits of their participation in the prescribed treatment.  This connection empowers their active engagement in the process and enhances the probabilities of their taking a more involved role in maintaining overall health in the future.

The month of April is dedicated to recognizing the efforts and accomplishments of all Occupational Therapy professionals through National Occupational Therapy Month.  If you are one of the nearly 170,000 Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides, we want to hear from you.  In the comments section below, tell us what trends you are expecting to see developing over the course of the next year or two. Or leave us a message on our Facebook page.