An occupational therapist assistant (OTA) works with patients under the
guidance of an occupational therapist.
An OTA works with all kinds of patients. For example, they may work with
a grandfather who has suffered a stroke. Suddenly, he is unable to move the
left side of his body. He also struggles with simple tasks and discovers that
even his memory is a bit short.
An OTA may find that they're working with a 16-year-old high school student
who has been paralyzed in a car accident.
An OTA helps patients regain lost abilities.
An OTA starts working with a patient after their hospital stay. The OTA
follows a program of therapy and training designed by an occupational therapist.
Such a program is designed to help clients regain as much independence
as possible. What a program includes depends on the patient.
In some cases, an OTA may help a patient learn how to cook meals from a
wheelchair. Another patient may need help with job skills. Someone else may
need to learn how to drive a vehicle that's been modified to be driven by
someone with a handicap.
Some OTAs work with people on the job. They find ways to modify a work
situation so the injured person can still do the job.
In other words, occupational therapy assistants deal with how a patient
functions in their environment -- both physically and psychologically.
"OTAs may look at changes to the person's environment, teach them new tasks,
or look at the physical components and their range of strength," says Maureen
Coulthard. She heads up an OTA program at an institute of applied science.
OTAs teach the patients how to use various tools. They monitor the progress
of the patient. If it appears the program isn't working, the OTA requests
that the occupational therapist review the patient's program.
Typically, OTAs work regular day shifts. About one-third work in hospitals
and one-quarter work in nursing and personal care facilities. Most assistants
work in hospitals or private physical therapy offices. Others work in clinics,
nursing homes, schools and even inside patients' homes.
A small but increasing number of OTAs work in the home health industry.
This is where the assistant provides a service to the client in the home,
rather than in an institutional setting, like a hospital or clinic.
Those interested in this field should be in good physical shape. They are
often on their feet for long periods of time. They may have to assist in moving
clients, such as helping them out of wheelchairs.
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Assist people with learning to live with a physical handicap
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Occupational Therapist Assistants
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