OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

The occupational therapist attempts to restore an individual’s independence and self-reliance by first evaluating the patient’s needs, and then teaching the patient to understand and compensate for their disability through planned activities and therapy.

Occupational therapy involves the application of purposeful goal-oriented activity in the evaluation and treatment of persons whose abilities to perform and cope with the tasks of living are impaired. Occupational therapists work hand-in-hand with a team that may include physical therapists, speech therapists, and vocational rehabilitation and recreational therapists to help individuals achieve an independent, productive and satisfying life.

What do OTs focus on in therapy?

  • Fine motor skills (ex: writing, buttoning a shirt, using utinsils)
  • ADLs (activities of daily living – ex: dressing, bathing, cooking, feeding)
  • Employment skills
  • UE interventions (therapeutic activities to enhance functional performance)
  • Helping children meet developmental milestones
  • Sensory integration
  • Self-care training
  • Designing, fabricating, and applying UE splints
  • Consultation concerning the accessibility and adaptation of the physical environment for the disabled
  • etc.

HOW DO I BECOME AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST

While in high school, you can prepare for a career as an occupational therapist by taking biology, chemistry, physics, health, art and social sciences courses as well as volunteer or work in the healthcare field.

A 4-year bachelor’s degree is required to apply for OT School Relevant undergraduate majors include biology, kinesiology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, liberal arts and anatomy. You want to really use these 4 years to build up your resume & get as much experience in the field as you can through volunteering, shadowing, or working.

OT graduate school is ~2years (depending on the program). After graduating from OT school, you will have a MOT (Masters in Occupational Therapy)

In order to practice after graduating OT school, you must obtain a license to practice. To do this, you take and pass the National Board for Certication of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT) exam. Throughout your career, you must also take continuing education classes to maintain your license.

Schools in LA with OT program & requirements:

  • LSUHSC New Orleans
    •  Min Cumulative GPA of 2.5 (Min GPA of 2.8 for pre-requisite courses)
    • GRE (Graduate Record Exam): Min of 150 on verbal section, 141 on quantitative section, 3.5 on analytical writing
    • Completion of all pre-requisite courses with a “C” or better
    • 40 documented observation hours in the field
  • LSUHSC Shreveport
    • Min Cumulative GPA of 2.8 (Min GPA of 3.0 for pre-requisite courses)
    • GRE: min of 146 on verbal section, 140 on quantitative section, 4.0 on analytical writing
    • Completion of all pre-requisite courses with a “C” or better
    • 20 documented observation hours in the field

NOTE: These programs are fairly competitive, so the numbers listed are just the MINIMUM you need in order to apply.

WHAT WILL I LEARN IN SCHOOL?

Curricula of accredited programs are required to include basic human sciences, the human development process, specific life tasks and activities, health and illness, and occupational therapy theory and practice. The education of the occupational therapist is broadly based in human anatomy and physiology; behavioral sciences such as psychology and sociology; humanities and the arts; specialized professional subjects; and field work experience.

LIFE AFTER GRADUATION

Occupational therapists may advance to supervisory and administrative positions. As supervisor they may direct activities of the Occupational Therapy Department. As an administrator they may also direct rehabilitation services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, vocational rehabilitation and recreational therapy.

The job outlook for occupational therapists is expected to be excellent, with a 26% increase in employment from 2008 to 2018, as predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This increase is due, in part, to the increasing elderly population.  This population has a higher incidence of disabling conditions such as heart attack and stroke and as a result require more therapeutic services.  Therefore, job opportunities will be good in all settings, especially in acute hospital, rehabilitation and orthopedic settings as these setting are where the elderly receive the majority of their therapeutic services.

SALARY

Average in US: $78,810

Average salary in Louisiana: $75,040

Work Hours

Dependent on setting, but usually 40 hour work weeks if working full time. Part-time typically available as well. Minimal weekend work may be required (depending on setting).

Work Settings

  • Hospital
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital
  • Outpatient Clinics
  • Skilled Nursing Facility
  • Nursing Home
  • Home Health
  • School System

PROFESSIONAL INFORMATION SOURCES:

Louisiana Occupational Therapy Association
P.O.Box 14806
Baton Rouge, LA 70898
(888) 780- 6306
www.lota.org

Video of an Occupational Therapist: