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Career Story: Occupational Therapist At A Social Service Agency

Occupational Therapist At A Social Service Agency

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.

Job Tips:
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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