Considering Work as an Occupational Therapist Assistant and Aide?
Nature of Work
Occupational therapist assistants and aides work under the guidance of occupational therapists to execute provide therapeutic services to persons with mental, physical, emotional, or developmental illnesses. The utmost goal is to enhance clients' quality of life and capability to carry out daily activities. For example, occupational therapist assistants assist injured workers re-enter the labor force by directing them how to make up for lost motor skills or help individuals with learning disabilities augment their independence.
In collaboration with an occupational therapist, Occupational therapist assistants help clients with rehabilitative activities and exercises charted in a treatment plan developed. Activities diverge from coaching the proper way of transferring from a bed into a wheelchair to the best way to stretch and flex the muscles of the hand. Assistants oversee an individual’s activities to guarantee that they are performed the right way and to provide support. They also document their client’s development for the occupational therapist. In hopes of getting better results, the therapist may change the treatment program if the treatment is not having the anticipated effect, or the client is not becoming better as counted on. Furthermore, occupational therapist assistants record the billing of the client’s health insurance provider.
Occupational therapist aides usually arrange materials and assemble equipment utilized during treatment. They are accountable for a range of clerical duties covering scheduling appointments, answering the telephone, refurbishing or ordering exhausted supplies, and filling out insurance forms or other paperwork. The law does not permit them to do as wide a range of duties as occupational therapist assistants since aides are not regulated by States.
Occupational therapist assistants and aides must possess a moderate amount of strength due to the physical strain required to help patients. For example, assistants and aides may require carrying patients. Continuous kneeling, stooping, and standing for long periods of time also are part of the job.
The hours and days that occupational therapist assistants and aides work differ by facility and whether they work full time or part time. For example, a lot of outpatient therapy offices and clinics have evening and weekend hours to occur simultaneously with patients' schedules.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Education and training. Occupational therapist assistants must attend a school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) so that one may take the national certifying exam for occupational therapist assistants. In 2009, there were 135 ACOTE accredited occupational therapist assistant programs.
The first year of study usually covers an introduction to healthcare, basic medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology. Second year courses are more stringent and typically include occupational therapy courses in fields like mental health, adult physical disabilities, gerontology, and pediatrics. Students also must finish at least 16 weeks of supervised fieldwork in a clinic or community setting.
Applicants to occupational therapist assistant programs can enhance their chances of admission by obtaining high school courses in biology and health and by doing volunteer work in nursing care facilities, occupational or physical therapists' offices, or other healthcare settings.
Occupational therapist aides typically get most of their training on the job. Certified applicants must have a high school diploma, strong interpersonal skills, and a desire to help people in need. Applicants may increase their chances of getting a job by volunteering their services, thus showing dynamism and inclination to the employer.
Licensure. Forty States, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia regulate the practice of occupational therapist assistants either by licensing, registration, or certification. Furthermore, eligibility requirements differ by State. For specific regulatory requirements on occupational therapist assistants, students must contact their own State’s licensing board.
A number of States have more requirements for therapist assistants who work in schools or early intervention programs. These requirements may cover education-related classes, an education practice certificate, or early intervention certification.
Certification and other qualifications. Certification is voluntary. The National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy approves occupational therapist assistants via a national certifying exam. Those who pass the test are given the title Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). The national certifying exam meets requirements for regulation, in some States, however other States have their own licensing exam.
Occupational therapist assistants are anticipated to pursue their professional development by engaging in continuing education courses and workshops with regard to maintaining the certification. A number of States require continuing education for one to maintain licensure.
Assistants and aides must be responsible, patient, and willing to take directions and a team player. Moreover, they should be caring and willing to help people who are not capable to help themselves.
Advancement. Occupational therapist assistants may step up into administration positions. They might gather all the assistants in a large occupational therapy department or serve as the director for a particular department such as sports medicine. Some assistants go ahead to teach classes in accredited occupational therapist assistant academic programs or direct health risk reduction classes for the elderly.
With the right formal education, occupational therapist aides can turn into occupational therapist assistants.
In 2008, occupational therapist assistants and aides held about 34,400 jobs - with assistants holding about 26,600 jobs and aides holding approximately 7,800 jobs. Approximately 28 percent of jobs for assistants and aides were in offices of other health practitioners, 27 percent were in hospitals, and 20 percent were in nursing care facilities. The rest were generally in home healthcare services, individual and family services, community care facilities for the elderly, and government agencies.
Employment change. Employment of occupational therapist assistants and aides is anticipated to increase by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, a lot quicker than the average for all occupations. Requirement for occupational therapist assistants and aides will extend to increase due to the rising number of individuals with disabilities or limited function.
The increasing elderly population is specifically exposed to chronic and debilitating conditions that need therapeutic services. These patients frequently require further assistance in their treatment, making the roles of assistants and aides crucial. Additionally, the huge baby-boom generation is arriving the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, further enhancing the requirement for cardiac and physical rehabilitation. Furthermore, future medical developments should allow an accelerated percentage of trauma victims to survive, resulting to further demand for therapy services. Requirement for therapy may be restrained by Federal legislation dictating restrictions on reimbursement for therapy services.
Requirement from adolescents will grow because of expansion of the school-age population and Federal legislation allowing funding for education for the disabled.
Occupational therapists are assumed to progressively hire assistants to lessen the cost of occupational therapy services. Once a patient is evaluated and a treatment plan is made by the therapist, the occupational therapist assistant can administer many aspects of treatment, as prescribed by the therapist.
Job prospects. Opportunities for occupational therapist assistants should be very good. On the other hand, individuals with only a high school diploma may confront fierce competition for occupational therapist aide jobs. Occupational therapist assistants and aides with previous experience working in an occupational therapy office or other healthcare setting will have the best job opportunities. Aside from employment growth, job openings will arise from the need to replenish occupational therapist assistants and aides who leave the occupation for good over the 2008-18 period.
Average annual salaries of occupational therapist assistants were $48,230 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $39,240 and $57,810. The lowest 10 percent gained less than $31,150, and the highest 10 percent made more than $65,160. Average annual salaries in the industries hiring the largest numbers of occupational therapist assistants in May 2008 were:
Home health care services
Offices of other health practitioners
Nursing care facilities
General medical and surgical hospitals
Elementary and secondary schools
Average annual salaries of occupational therapist aides were $26,960 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent received between $21,930 and $33,340. The lowest 10 percent made less than $17,850, and the highest 10 percent gained more than $46,910. Average annual salaries in the industries hiring the biggest numbers of occupational therapist aides in May 2008 were:
Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals