A young man with a brain injury who must learn to walk again, a senior citizen with a broken wrist who can't get her chores done, a child who has difficulty learning to write. All of these people can benefit from the services of an occupational therapist.
Occupational therapists work with people who have physical, mental, emotional and developmental problems. They help them to regain, develop and build skills that they have lost, or sometimes, never had. Their goal is to help their clients lead independent, productive and satisfying lives.
They use a variety of methods to achieve their goals. For example, a young boy who has been injured in a car accident may need help to use his legs again, and he may also need to have his classroom facilities adjusted.
Occupational therapy involves a lot of hands-on physical activity. Occupational therapists usually work with doctors, physical therapists and social workers to design programs and evaluate results. The records that occupational therapists keep are also used by lawyers and insurance companies if a personal injury claim is involved.
Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings - in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, private consulting agencies, community centres and the homes of their clients. It can be a demanding job, both physically and mentally.
They work 8-9 hours a day, 40 - 45 hours a week. Sometimes they work nights or weekends to accommodate clients with special needs. Therapists are on their feet for much of the day and their work involves a lot of physical activity.
$46 000 - $58 000 a year.
(a) Personal Characteristics
Excellent people skills are very important because occupational therapists must be empathetic, caring and respectful of their clients' needs. You have to find practical solutions for clients with different needs in different environments. Being physically fit is especially important.
(b) High School
At the senior level, include the following subjects: English, math, biology, chemistry, physics, health and physical education. Aim for high marks upon graduation. Admission requirements for post-secondary should be checked carefully.
(c) Post Secondary
In 2010, all universities will offer only master's degrees in occupational therapy. After high school, you must complete 2-4 years of undergraduate university education before you can be accepted into an occupational therapy master's program. You must take specific courses in anatomy, laboratory sciences and the social sciences before starting an occupational therapy program. Check with the university you are interested in to find out its exact requirements.
The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists administers a national certification examination which ensures the minimum standards of the profession. In order to work as an occupational therapist in Canada, you must also be registered with the occupational therapy regulatory body in the province where you will be employed. In Nova Scotia, it is the College of Occupational Therapists of Nova Scotia.
In 2001, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) reported a shortage of OT's in Canada. Key changes which will impact on the occupation include a shift to the community level (away from hospitals and urban centres), the aging population and the trend to health prevention. Work opportunities for occupational therapists in business are on the rise, thus requiring business skills.
What Can I do Now?