Job Title: Occupational Therapist
Type of Company: Outpatient orthopedic care center 20 miles west of Boston.
Education: BS, Zoology, Brigham Young University MS, Occupational Therapy, Washington University (St. Louis, MO)
Previous Experience: I worked in a tertiary care hospital for a year, and then a small city hospital for three years, all in outpatient care.
Job Tasks: A typical day for me involves seeing a patient each half hour for a follow-up appointment, or spending an hour with a new patient to evaluate what they can and cannot do due to their injury. If I'm seeing a patient for a follow-up visit, we follow a treatment plan that I worked out with him during our initial consultation. We go over various exercises and stretches. We use heat, ice, massage, taping, ultrasound, and other modalities to help patients decrease their pain and increase their abilities. Sometimes we make a splint to keep a hand, leg or arm from moving so the muscles and other structures can knit, and sometimes we make splints that stretch body parts (typically fingers) into different positions so people can regain motion they'd lost. We teach people different ways to move and bend and specific ways to sit at a computer workstation to avoid injury. Sometimes we get to go to a person's work site and help her make adjustments to avoid injury while on the job.
My duties include communicating with insurance companies, doctors, other therapists, and schedulers, as well as with patients, of course. It's a great job if you enjoy interacting with people.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is interacting with my patients. I also really enjoy making splints. It's fun and, at times, challenging to make them. They need to fit just right and fulfill a specific purpose.
The worst part of the job is calling insurance companies and filling out paper work to try to get patients the number of visits they need to make a thorough and rapid recovery.
1. I would volunteer in a hospital, a school or other therapy setting and get a feel for the job.
2. I would check into requirements for entrance into OT programs early on in your college career so you don't have to back track and take classes you could have taken earlier, like psychology.
3. Find an occupational therapist and discuss the pros and cons of an OT career.
Additional Thoughts: One thing which affects your success in this career is a love of people. I've worked with many therapists, and those who like people are much happier doing what they do than those who don't; and they seem to build better relationships with their patients, which leads in turn to better outcomes.
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