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Occupational therapist: Making life easier

Occupational therapists are people who help them to lead a more fulfilling life and not be dependent on anyone. Are you interested?

What they do

Occupational therapists help mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabled people improve their ability to perform tasks in their daily life. They not only help people improve basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also compensate for permanent loss of function. Their ultimate goal is to help people have independent, productive, and satisfying lives.

The therapist also conducts a physical examination which extensively concentrates on range-of-motion and the observation of deformities which might hinder performance. He then assesses the need for splints or supports, which might benefit the patient. In some cases the therapist also helps design specific splints and assistive devices.

Occupational therapists come up with newer ways to triumph over the imposed limitations. The therapist can help the patient reduce joint strain, prevent further joint damage, and conserve energy by teaching joint protection techniques. Physical exercises are used to increase strength and dexterity, while paper and pencil exercises may be chosen to improve visual acuity and the ability to discern patterns.

Occupational therapists also use computer programmes to help clients improve decision-making, abstract reasoning, problem solving, and perceptual skills, as well as memory, sequencing, and coordination - all of which are important for independent living.

For whom do they work

Occupational therapists may work exclusively with individuals in a particular age group, or with particular disabilities.

In schools, for example, they evaluate a child's abilities, recommend and provide therapy, modify classroom equipment, and in general, help children participate as fully as possible in school programmes and activities.

They may also work individuals in rehabilitation centers to help them deal with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, eating disorders, or stress related disorders.

Occupational therapists in hospitals and other health care and community settings usually work long hours. Those in schools may also participate in meetings and other activities, during and after the school day. Occupational therapists also work in various non-governmental organisations.

Occupational therapists also help the elderly population. They help senior citizens lead more productive, active and independent lives through a variety of methods, including the use of adaptive equipment.

Recording a client's activities and progress is an important part of an occupational therapist's job. Accurate records are essential for evaluating clients, billing, and reporting to physicians and others.

Requirements

Occupational therapists need patience and strong interpersonal skills to inspire trust and respect in their clients. Ingenuity and imagination in adapting activities to individual needs are assets.

Those working in home health care must be able to successfully adapt to a variety of settings.

The job can be tiring, because therapists are on their feet much of the time. Those providing home health care may spend time commuting from appointment to appointment. Therapists need to be physically strong as they prone to back strain from lifting and moving clients and equipment.

A B.Sc. in occupational therapy can be done after 10+2 with physics, chemistry and biology. After that you can either start work or go on to do your Master's in the same subject which will give you an edge over other bachelor's degree holders.

Job opportunities

Occupational therapists work in:
—Hospitals and other health care and community settings.
—Schools, evaluating child's abilities, recommending and providing therapy in mental health settings where they treat the mentally ill, mentally retarded, or emotionally disturbed.
—Rehabilitation centers to help them deal with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, eating disorders, or stress related disorders.
—Various non-governmental organisations.

Career prospects

The largest number of jobs is in hospitals, including many in rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals. Other major employers include offices and clinics of occupational therapists and other health practitioners, school systems, home health agencies, nursing homes, community mental health centers, daycare programmes, etc.

There is scope for private practice wherein you see clients referred by physicians or other health professionals, or consulting services to nursing homes, schools, adult daycare programs, and home health agencies.

Over the long run, the demand for occupational therapists should continue to rise as a result of growth in the number of individuals with disabilities or limited function requiring therapy services. The rapidly growing population 75 years of age and above (an age that suffers from a high incidence of disabling conditions), will also demand additional services. Medical advances now enable more patients with critical problems to survive. These patients may need extensive therapy.

Hospitals will continue to employ a large number of occupational therapists to provide therapy services to acutely ill patients. They will also need occupational therapists to staff their outpatient rehabilitation programmes.

In schools therapists will be needed to help children with disabilities prepare to enter special education programmes.

For Comments: psjamwal@amity.edu

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