Occupational therapists (OTs) use practical movement and exercise to rehabilitate patients with disabilities or injuries. Therapists may also design work or home environments to suit an individual’s needs, thereby enabling them to succeed in daily care activities and in the workplace.
In order to become licensed, students must graduate from a program that’s accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Master’s programs typically last 2-3 years and combine fieldwork with courses in neurobiology, physiology, anatomy and OT techniques. Most programs conclude with a supervised fieldwork experience.
Rebecca Cavender, Occupational Therapist
I am an occupational therapist who works primarily in an outpatient clinic within a hospital. I work with patients who have upper extremity injuries from shoulder to fingertip as well as patients with neurological disorders including strokes. I also work in the hospital setting at times with a variety of patients including those admitted for orthopedic surgeries, neurological disorders, and other illnesses. I have been working as an occupational therapist for 5 years.
I was first exposed to therapy through a family member with a disability. Seeing my cousin work with his therapists gave me an interest in pursuing therapy as a career. Upon further research, I decided that I wished to pursue occupational therapy. Through my education, I was introduced to the many areas of occupational therapy and enjoyed the challenges of working in an outpatient clinic with upper extremity injuries, especially hand therapy.
A typical day at work includes working with patient with a variety of diagnoses from upper extremity fractures, repetitive strain injuries, upper extremity surgeries, stroke, joint replacements, and many more. Activities with patients include functional activity simulations such as work tasks, coordination retraining, strengthening, stretching, and orthotic/splint fabrication. The best part of the day is getting to interact with a variety of people and getting to know my patients.
My advice for anyone considering a career in Occupational Therapy would be to decide what type of therapy or what area of therapy services he/she would like to perform – hospital setting, children, orthopedic injury, etc. and to observe in many areas prior to making a decision. I initially wanted to work with children but through observations in other avenues of occupational therapy, I found my true passion in working with upper extremity injuries and hand therapy.