Occupational therapy is a vigorous field to be working in, with growth expectations of 26 percent by 2018. Healthcare organizations will continue to employ a large number of OTs to provide services in hospitals and outpatient clinics.
Despite the job’s healthy prognosis though, expansion may be hampered by the impact of federal legislation limiting reimbursement for some therapy services. OTs would be wise to hone their skills for a market that will fragment and fluctuate.
OTs can work their way into management supervisory roles. They can also return to school for post-graduate studies leading to research or teaching positions, but the most tried-and-true path to career advancement is acquiring a certification in an advanced practice specialization.
According to The American Occupational Therapy Association there are eight board certified specialties:
Eldercare is a booming specialty. OTs who certify in this area help older adults lead more active and independent lives by assessing their physical abilities, from doing the most simple tasks to the most complex, as they adapt to age-related changes.
OTs in mental health settings work with individuals, who are mentally ill, developmentally challenged, addicted or emotionally disturbed. They teach patient specific life skills designed to mitigate the day-to-day difficulties that individuals in this group often encounter.
Pediatric specialists treat a wide range of disorders in infants, children and adolescents. This program is designed to train therapists to evaluate, treat and manage a variety of neuromuscular, skeletal or cognitive limitations.
The goals of the OT are to devise and implement a rehab plan that will allow patients to be able to participate in the activities that they need and want to do. Patients are evaluated for limitations that require intervention and for strengths that can be used to compensate for weaknesses.
Driving and Community Mobility
Specialized training in driver rehabilitation will allow a therapist to assess an individual’s ability to drive during both clinical and on-the-road tests, and to then make recommendations for adaptive equipment and training.
An environmental modification is an adaptation to a building that will increase its users’ comfort, safety and independence. OTs will evaluate homes and work spaces to assist patients in regaining their independence.
Feeding, Eating and Swallowing
OTs will train to mitigate problems stemming from a patient’s difficulty gathering food and getting ready to suck, chew or swallow it. Therapists in this area will work with everyone from infants to the elderly.
Low vision is a visual impairment severe enough to interfere with performance of daily activities. Certified OTs will be able to assess each patient, train them in the use of adaptive equipment and teach them techniques that will help them return to independent living.
Planning Your Career in Occupational Therapy
By Elisabeth Greenbaum Kasson