Job Title: Occupational Therapist
Education: BS in Human Development, UMass Amherst MS in Occupational Therapy, Boston University
Previous Experience: I worked as an aid in a rehabilitation hospital before getting my degree in OT. Prior to my current position, I have worked in mental health settings, in schools for special needs kids, and in a rehabilitation hospital. I was able to work full and part time and to tailor my job commitments to my family's needs.
Job Tasks: I work for a social services agency in the senior services department. I am on a private grant to develop and run a Parkinson's Family Support program for people with Parkinson's disease and their families. I started the program two years ago and it has grown very quickly with a focus on providing services that improve quality of life for people with Parkinson's disease and their families.
In a typical day, I answer information and referral calls, plan or run programs, and interface with my agency, depending on the day. I do some public speaking and work to find and shepherd donors with the goal of making the program sustainable. I also create alliances with local hospitals and universities to make the community aware of our program offerings and to find and nurture partners for future events and programs.
I am responsible for all aspects of the programming, so I tend to the conceptual-large picture-ideas as well as the nitty gritty details of running specific programs. I work to stay up-to-date on ideas from around the country and have been able to bring programs to the Boston area for the first time. In addition, I offer free home safety assessments and consult to the geriatric care management department of my agency.
I also supervise a student part time and supervise a dance instructor who is also part time. The dance instructor works with me to develop dance programming for people with Parkinson's disease. This is a unique class in the area which has grown quickly. We run a monthly support group for which I bring in speakers, and this is a large part of my job, as the group generally hosts about 40 participants.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job are: I can be as creative as I like. I can define my job and configure my day in any way I like.
The worst parts of the job are: I am responsible for every detail, large and small with no support staff. This is sometimes quite overwhelming.
1. Think outside of the box. You do not have to spend your career being a member of a staff in lock step with others. OT offers so many different opportunities to work in a wide variety of settings. I originally had to sell myself to an agency that only hired social workers. Now they wonder how they managed without an OT.
2. If you can develop a specialty, it will open doors. I specialized in working with people with MS in a large rehab setting and that opened the door for me to move to working with a population with other neurological disorders.
3. Move around to make the job match your interests. When you get bored, try a new population to work with. The underlying concepts and theoretical structures are the same, so add variety.
Additional Thoughts: This is a great career, but it is not very lucrative unless you go into management.
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