An occupational therapist assistant (OTA) helps treat people with disabilities stemming from injuries, developmental delays, or other health-related conditions such as a traumatic brain injury or stroke, loss of limb, or cancer.
Being an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) can be an extremely rewarding career. Working in this field, you would be doing so much more than just checking in with the occasional patient. Rather, you would be supporting the everyday needs of those facing the challenges of physical, developmental, or emotional disabilities, and you would be helping them build more autonomous and productive lives. But what does this work entail exactly?
Simply put, an occupational therapist assistant (OTA) helps treat people with disabilities stemming from injuries, developmental delays, or other health-related conditions such as a traumatic brain injury or stroke, loss of limb, or cancer. OTAs use therapeutic daily activities to help their clients work through these physical and/or neurological challenges, while at the same time evaluating rehabilitative regimens to help their clients (re)learn the skills to live more independently.
Occupational Therapy Assistants have a variety of responsibilities. The role requires a bit of flexibility on the OTA’s part because their workday includes a wide range of tasks. The role is constantly changing, depending on duties linked to a patient’s individual care and needs. Depending on the patient or the setting in which the OTA works, the list of responsibilities can include any of the following:
Occupational therapy assistants work across a range of settings from hospitals to nursing care facilities. For example, OTAs can offer therapeutic services to elementary school children, and thus an OTA would work within a particular school district. In this role, the OTA may work more within a classroom setting, assisting children in developing their cognitive skills and helping teachers better accommodate children who need specialized instruction.
On the other hand, OTAs assisting elderly patients with dementia may work with the clients in the clients’ own homes or at nursing care facilities designed to support them.
OTAs can also treat those facing mental illness. In fact, OTAs commonly work with the unhoused community or at shelters, group homes, or detention centers. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, millions of Americans are affected by mental illness, and in 2020, 21% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness (52.9 million people). Meanwhile, 6.7% of American adults experienced mental illness and substance abuse (17 million people).
Working to help treat those with mental illness, OTAs can benefit these patients by:
The main difference between occupational therapy and other therapies (such as speech-language therapy and physical therapy) is the utilization of occupations (activities) created to help treat patients. OTAs also consider the patient’s unique environment or context to help the patient better build their new life skills. A young patient facing challenges at school, for example, needs to learn very specific coping tools and techniques that help support their learning. An adult in a work environment may have very different needs.
Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work together to treat patients. However, occupational therapists (OTs) will take the lead in organizing and maintaining a treatment plan for patients. The OTA works directly with the patient during the day-to-day occupations or activities, collaborating with them to carry out the OT’s plan. As such, the OTAs will have much more one-on-one interaction with the patient. Both OTs and
OTAs are vital pieces of a patient’s healthcare team, and they are often employed by hospitals and rehabilitation centers to work alongside other healthcare practitioners like physical therapists, language therapists, or registered nurses.
The demand for occupational therapy assistants has been increasing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16.2% children were diagnosed with a developmental disability between 2009 and 2011.
And between 2015 and 2017, that rate increased to 17.8%. Meanwhile, every 40 seconds in the US someone will have a stroke according to the CDC, which is about 795,000 people a year. The number of people needing care with loss of memory or decrease in physical mobility due to aging is growing as well, as people are living longer on average.
Additionally, the US has more people with obesity and conditions resulting from being overweight. According to the CDC, 42.4% of adults and 18.5% of children in 2018 were obese, and obesity rates are increasing.
Occupational therapy services many different settings and different age groups, from children and young adults to elderly patients, and those seeking rehabilitation after sustaining injuries on the job. With this wideness in scope, an OTA’s knowledge must cover many specialities, and they can apply that knowledge to many different careers, not just occupational therapy.
There are plenty of perks to starting out as an OTA. Being an OTA lets you enter the healthcare field and get hands-on experience before deciding if you would like to further your education to become an OT.
Although working to become an OT means graduating with a bachelor’s degree and for many, going on to pursue a master’s, being an OTA only requires an associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program.
Lastly, 50% OTAs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, earn an average of $61,150 a year, while the top 10% of OTAs earn a mean average of $82,210 a year, making being an OTA a lucrative career option compared to many other fields.
Ready to pursue a career as an occupational therapy assistant? Start your career at Brooks Rehabilitation, an organization passionate about patient care. As an OTA at Brooks Rehabilitation, you work directly with patients, helping them become more independent and lead successful, filling lives.
Apply online today for a position at one of our many Florida locations.