As an Occupational Therapist, you’ll be helping people who have difficulties carrying out day-to-day activities because of a disability, illness, trauma, ageing and a range of long-term conditions. You’d be helping people overcome various challenges so that they can live as independently as possible. You may be teaching someone a new way to work, or making changes to their current environment, allowing daily activities to become easier.
As an occupational therapist you’ll be working with individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The main individuals you’d be helping would be someone who recovering from major surgery or serious injury, individuals with mental illnesses, special education needs (SEN), physical disability or older people.
With any of the above, you may have to arrange adaptations to their work or home environment. For example, with an older person who wishes to live independently, you could organise stairlifts or level access showers.
Being an occupational therapist is an incredibly rewarding role, working with clients and their families to make life easier. Supporting an individual’s independent living can also ease the pressure felt by their support network. Not only would you be working with clients and their support network, but also work with groups, or as part of a multi-disciplinary team in various settings. These settings include hospitals, clinics, charities, prisons, and social services departments.
There are currently over 52,000 occupational therapists in the United Kingdom (UK). This highlights the need for this important role.
Daily Duties of an Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists look deeper than the mechanics of mobility. They provide practical advice and solutions to enable people to live full, satisfying, and independent lives. Specific duties of an occupation therapist vary depending on their chosen field of work, as does their place of work or who they support. However, they are mainly based within hospital or community settings.
Common responsibilities of an occupational therapist include:
- Assessment of physical, communication, interaction, and cognitive skills of a patient
- Planning and providing appropriate treatment and activities
- Giving advice and arranging support for family members, carers, or clients
- General administrative tasks, for example, writing reports, making telephone calls, maintain records and case notes
- Liaising with doctors, family members, carers, or other medical professionals, ensuring they are updated in the progress and treatment of the patient
- Assessing treatment success, including attending multi-professional case meetings
- Advising people on how they can approach everyday tasks
- Adapting people’s environments, whether this be at home or work
- Introducing and training on new equipment, such as wheelchairs and stairlifts
Skills required to be an Occupational Therapist
As with any role, there any many personal characteristics that someone needs to possess to be a good occupational therapist. This career is a public facing role so you’ll be interacting with different people every day. Therefore, your interpersonal skills need to be excellent. Being capable of quickly building a rapport with many different people, is an essential trait for an occupational therapist to have.
As with most other areas of healthcare, you need to be patient, empathetic and enthusiastic. You are the difference between someone taking their first steps after a major surgery and remaining in their hospital bed. Positivity is crucial to encourage someone to take the steps they need to discharge and recovery.
As an occupational therapist, you need to be able to think on your feet. If someone is not responding to treatment, the ability to quickly change what you are doing is necessary. You also need to be able to work well as part of a team, as you are working closely with other disciplines within healthcare.
Occupational therapists need to have a good amount of flexibility when dealing with the high and the low points of a patient’s recovery. Your day may change at the last minute, if there is a demand with a patient, having the flexibility to do so, is essential.
Occupational therapists need to have an excellent level of communication. This includes strong written and verbal communication, to effectively understand the needs of their patients, and then explain the treatment process. Additionally, they need to be able to clearly document treatment plans and progress whilst collaborating with other healthcare professionals.
How can I become an Occupational Therapist?
If you’re considering a career in occupational therapy, it is important you understand how to get there. As with many other healthcare professionals, occupational therapy requires extensive education and training to become a licensed practitioner. Most occupational therapists enter their career with at least a master’s degree in occupational therapy, whilst others choose to pursue a doctoral degree to advance further within their chosen field.
Occupational therapists can achieve their degree in three years if they are a full-time student and up to six years if they choose to go part-time. A post graduate master’s degree can be achieved in one to two years. Once they have graduated, they need to register with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) before they can start practising.
The entry requirements to apply to an undergraduate occupational therapy program are usually two or three A Levels, or equivalent, and five GCSE’s grades 4-9 (grades A-C) including science. Equivalent qualifications to A Levels include a BTEC, HND or HNC, a relevant NVQ, a science-based Access to HE Diplomas. Scottish and Irish applicants will need to hold their nationally recognised equivalent.
Study Online to become an Occupational Therapist
learndirect is the UK’s leading online distance learning provider. Offering a range of courses including Access to Higher Education Diplomas. Written by subject experts, the Access to HE Diploma is widely accepted by the majority of educational institutions in the UK as an equivalent to A Levels.
An Access to Higher Education Diploma (Health Professionals) offers you an ample view into the healthcare system, whilst preparing you for degree-level study, including academic writing, research, and assignment preparation. By the end of this diploma, you will be ready and eligible to apply to many health-related undergraduate programs.
Take the jump into your new career by enrolling on one of our Access to HE Diplomas. Find out more by clicking below.