Occupational therapy assistants work collaboratively with occupational therapists. Their Occupational Therapy Assistant job description typically state that they provide rehabilitative services to individuals with physical, mental, developmental or emotional impairments. The goal of therapy is usually to assist injured workers so that they are able to re-enter the work force by instructing them in how to compensate for motor skills that have been lost. The occupational therapist assistants may help the occupational therapist with the implementation of treatment plans for patients and may monitor and track progress. These assistants may also assist patients with learning disabilities to increase their level of independence.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Job Description
Occupational therapy assistants help patients with various rehabilitative exercises and activities that are outlined within a treatment plan. They may work with young children or older adults. Patients may have suffered from an injury, or may have some sort of condition or illness. Occupational therapy assistants can help the patients improve their level of functioning.
Here is a list of common job responsibilities of occupational therapy assistants:
- Assist patients in completing activities, physical exercises, and stretches
- Educate patients on how to properly use devices and equipment
- Document patients’ progress and goal attainment
- Discuss and consult regarding patient progress with the occupational therapist
- Encourage patients
Activities that are commonly included in a patients’ treatment plan might include practicing skills of daily living (such as teeth brushing and combing hair), and doing specific stretches. Assistants also observe activities to ensure they are performed properly so as to avoid injury, while also providing support and encouragement. Occupational therapy assistants may document the progress of their patients to provide to the occupational therapist. The therapist may alter the treatment plan if it is not proving to be beneficial to the patient or the patient is not progressing as anticipated. Occupational therapy assistants may also be responsible for documenting the billing for the client’s health insurance provider.
Occupational therapy assistants typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities. It is beneficial for occupational therapy assistants to be in good health and relatively strong because they spend much of their work day standing and assisting clients. It is not uncommon for occupational therapy assistants to lift patients, kneel, and stoop many times throughout the work day. Social and communication skills are important for occupational therapy assistants as they work closely with occupational therapists, patients, and other coworkers. Occupational therapy assistants typically work full-time 40 hours a week. They may need to work into the evening or on the weekends. Schedules may vary according to the facility where they are employed and whether they work full-time or part-time. It is possible for occupational therapy assistants to advance into administrative positions.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Education Requirements
An associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program is typically necessary in order to quality for occupational therapy assistant jobs. In many states, the practice of occupation therapist assistants is regulated through licensure or certification. Licensure is required, but requirements may vary according to state in which the occupational therapy assistant works.
It is beneficial for individuals who are interested in a career as an occupational therapy assistant to take science classes (such as biology and physiology) and health classes while they are still in high school. It is also beneficial for future occupational therapy assistants to have volunteer experience pertaining to physical therapy. In order to become an occupational therapy assistant, an individual needs to attend an accredited occupational therapy assistant program. The program must be accredited through the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education in order for students to be eligible to sit for a national certifying exam. During a student’s first year in an occupational therapy assistant program, they typically take an introductory to healthcare class, as well as physiology, anatomy and basic medical terminology. During a student’s second year, classes are usually more intensive and may include mental health, pediatrics, adult physical disabilities, and gerontology. Additionally, students must complete at least 16 weeks of supervised field experience in a community setting or a clinical setting.
It is beneficial for occupational therapy assistants to be genuinely caring and compassionate as they frequently work with individuals who are coping with illness or other challenging life circumstances. It is also beneficial for occupational therapy assistants to have strong communication skills. They work closely with occupational therapists, nurses, patients, and sometimes their families. Physical strength is also important because the occupational therapy assistant job is highly physical. They spend much of their bending over, stooping, squatting, lifting, and on their feet. Occupational therapy assistants must also be creative and adaptable as they help their patients. They must be able to come up with adaptive solutions in order to help patients achieve their therapy goals. Occupational therapy assistants should also pay close attention to details and be able to follow directions.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Salary
As of May 2012, the median annual wages of occupational therapist assistants was $53,240.* The lowest 10% of occupational therapist assistants earned an annual salary of less than $32,970. The top 10% of occupational therapist assistants earned an annual salary of more than $73,120. Annual salaries for occupational therapist assistants vary depending upon the industry in which the occupational therapist assistants work. For example, occupational therapist assistants who work in home health care industry tend to make more money than occupational therapist assistants who work in educational services. The pay disparity between occupational therapist assistants who work in those industries may be as much as $14,500 or more.
Here are the median annual salaries for occupational therapy assistants in the 5 main industries in which they work:
- Home health care companies – $57,840
- Assisted nursing facilities – $57,260
- Private offices – $55,070
- Hospitals – $49,460
- Schools and other educational services – $43,330
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Occupational Therapy Assistant Job Outlook
Employment of physical therapy assistants is expected to grow by 43% from the year 2012 to 2022. The rate of growth for this position is much faster than the average for all other careers. It is likely that the demand for physical therapy assistants will continue to grow over time. As the baby boomer generation ages, they may require the help of physical therapy assistants. As a result, the job security for occupational therapy assistants is very good. Using occupational therapy assistants can also cut costs for employers as their salaries are lower than that of occupational therapists. Occupational therapy assistants can do many of the treatments that occupational therapists do, thus decreasing costs for the employer. Job security for occupational therapy assistants is also good because of the increased number of individuals likely to receive physical therapy services. This increase is a result of their new access to healthcare through the Affordable Healthcare Act. Occupational therapy assistants who have previous job experience are most likely to have the best job opportunities when compared with occupational therapy assistants who are just entering the field.
Occupational Therapy Assistant and Aide Certification
The practice of occupational therapist assistants is regulated through certification or licensure. Most states in the United States require some form of licensure or certification in order to work as an occupational therapy assistant. In order to receive a license, an individual must have completed an accredited occupational therapy assistant program, have completed all their required fieldwork, and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam. Several states have additional licensure requirements. Individuals who pass the test will be awarded the title of Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. Occupational therapist assistants must continue professional development through continuing education classes and workshops in order to maintain certification. Continuing education may also be required in order to maintain licensure.
Occupational Therapy Assistant and Aide Professional Associations
Professional associations for occupational therapy assistants include the American Occupational Therapy Association.