Many unemployed workers and new high school graduates are enrolling in higher education programs in hopes of gaining a competitive edge in today’s uncertain marketplace. Before choosing an area of study, it helps to do a little research on the prospects of employment after graduation.
You’ll find that health care seems to be a bright spot in employment projections. Ten of the 20 fastest growing occupations are within the health care field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries. In addition, industry projections anticipate 3.2 million new jobs will be created in the 10-year span between 2008 and 2018.
Of the many different avenues one can take in the health care field, occupational therapy assistance can be an appealing choice. Health care professionals in this field administer rehabilitative services to help others achieve a better quality of life. Considering the increasing number of trauma survivors, children with sensory disorders and the aging baby boomer population, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment opportunities in the field to rise by 30 percent through 2018.
If you are a “people person” who enjoys helping others, this field may help you find professional fulfillment as an occupational therapy assistant. Kristine Deeken, chair of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Brown Mackie College – Akron, shares her knowledge of the field.
“Occupational therapy assistants work under the direction of an occupational therapist to help clients that exhibit any type of impairment, whether mental, physical, emotional or developmental,” says Deeken. “It’s a matter of getting them to perform self-care and everyday tasks more independently.”
Occupational therapy assistants work with clients of all ages, implementing treatment plans that are created by an occupational therapist. “Anyone with a limitation or deficit brought on by disease, accident or birth defect is a candidate for occupational therapy,” Deeken continues. “Any disease process, like a stroke, heart attack, mental retardation or dementia can cause limitations.”
Through the use of meaningful and purposeful activities, occupational therapy assistants challenge clients to be as independent as possible. “Any type of hobby or leisure activity can serve as a challenge,” says Deeken. “Even gardening and arts and crafts become therapeutic. When we add function to the exercise, the clients don’t feel like they’re working.”
Group treatment, with three or more clients at a time, is often used by occupational therapy assistants in nursing home settings. “Patients with similar diagnoses, and similar functional levels, can participate in cooking groups or bowling groups,” Deeken says. “OTA students learn specific theories and frames of references to deal with group dynamics during treatment.” As personalities in the group emerge as leaders or followers, this knowledge helps to grow beneficial camaraderie and support among members and assists in achieving their functional goals.
After graduating from an occupational therapy assistant program, certification is required before a person is eligible to work in the profession. Graduates must pass a test administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Brown Mackie College does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to Brown Mackie College.
For those who anticipate making positive contributions to others throughout their careers, becoming an occupational therapy assistant can lead to both personal and professional satisfaction.