Occupational Therapy-Real Help for Real Life

By Gibbs, Hope J. | Techniques, April 2004 | Go to article overview
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Occupational Therapy-Real Help for Real Life


Gibbs, Hope J., Techniques


Just living is an occupation. Young or old, people everywhere participate in daily activities that are the occupations of life. Growing, playing, learning, exercising, caring for the family and working make lives full and enjoyable. But when unexpected things happen to change that level of participation (i.e. injuries, depression, developmental disabilities), what can be done? Occupational therapy is there to restore the joys of living without pain or suffering.

Occupational therapy is one of the hottest growing professions around. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) cites on its website (www.aota.org) that "the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the job outlook for occupational therapists will improve substantially in the next several years and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Specifically, it states that 'Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2010,' meaning that employment is expected to increase by 21% to 35%."

Some significant points made by the Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding the occupational therapy profession are as follows:

Employment in this area is projected to increase faster than the average, as rapid growth in the number of middle aged and elderly individuals increases the demand for therapeutic services. Specifically, the large group known as the baby-boomers is now approaching the age where the occurrence of heart attack and stoke increases.

Occupational therapists are increasingly taking on supervisory roles. Due to rising health care costs, third-party payers are beginning to encourage occupational therapy assistants and aides to take more hands-on responsibility. By having assistants and aides work more closely with clients under the guidance of a therapist, the cost of therapy should be more manageable for those needing service.

More than one-third of occupational therapists work part time. The demand for this occupation has allowed more part-time openings, This is appealing for those professionals who, for various reasons, need to scale down the traditional 40-hour week.

AOTA staff writer Cynthia Johansson says in her article "Top 10 Emerging Practice Areas to Watch in the New Millennium" (which can be found on the AOTA website), "... current events, legislative changes and professional advocacy are reshaping the face of OT practice today, based on information gathered by the AOTA's Communication Department."

The 10 areas to watch Johansson lists are ergonomic consulting, driver rehabilitation and training, design and accessibility consulting and home modification, low vision services, private practice community health services, technology and assistive device development and consulting, welfare-to-work services, health and wellness consulting, ticket to work services, and addressing the psychosocial needs of children and youth. The emergence of more opportunities where occupational therapy is needed guarantees the future of the profession and creates a robust job market.

ACTE's Health Occupations Education Division Vice President Gina Doyle believes strongly in occupational therapy's valuable contribution to the health care team. "The focus is to assist the person in achieving maximum independence through individualized adaptation to health care challenges," Doyle says. "To do this, practitioners in the field must have the following strengths: high-level critical thinking, the ability to creatively adapt or design tools, astute observation of daily life skills, as well as the ability to recognize the unique needs of work requirements."

Helping people improve and restore their abilities to perform daily activities is the focus of the occupational therapist and occupational therapy assistants. This gratifying profession offers a diversity that makes it quite appealing to aspiring students.

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