What do occupational therapists do? Occupational therapists help patients with injuries, illnesses, or physical and mental disabilities improve skills for daily living and everyday activities.
Occupational therapy treatment centers on enabling patients to achieve independence in their lives through improvements in cognitive, physical, and motor skills. Occupational therapy also addresses the social, psychological, and environmental factors that impact the patient’s functioning.
Occupational therapists are a vital member of the treatment program for children and adults with birth defects, traumatic injuries, developmental disorders, behavioral problems, burns, amputations, cancer, or certain chronic illnesses.
Occupational Therapist Duties:
- Observe and interview patients, as well as review patients’ medical history
- Evaluate patients’ physical or mental health conditions and specific needs from treatment
- Create a treatment plan and establish clear goals to be accomplished
- Assist patients with different everyday tasks, such as handwriting, bathing, hitting a baseball, or feeding themselves
- Educate patients on exercises that can help relieve pain associated with chronic conditions
- Communicate with patients’ families, teachers, or employers on ways to accommodate and care for the patients’ health needs
- Demonstrate how to use special medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, feeding tubes, knee braces, or communication aids
- Track patients’ progress and activities to assess goals of treatment
- Evaluate patients for billing purposes, as well as reporting to physicians or other healthcare professionals providing care to the patients
An occupational therapist job description slightly varies depending on the area of employment. Occupational therapists in educational settings work with students one-on-one or in small groups, evaluate disabled children, establish classroom accommodations, and assist children in participating in school activities. They also may provide early intervention therapy to infants and toddlers that have developmental disorders or are at risk for other medical conditions.
On the other hand, occupational therapists may work in nursing homes or residential care facilities as well. They may work with elderly patients to help them lead more independent lives, minimize the risk for injuries, and recommend adaptive equipment to improve quality of life.
Occupational therapists who work in mental health settings will provide direct care to patients with developmental disabilities, mental illness, and emotional or behavioral problems. Typically, they help the patients cope with their handicaps by teaching them skills for time management, hygiene, work activities, budgeting, and other common daily practices. In addition, occupational therapists may work with patients that are recovering from drug addiction and alcoholism to decrease the chance of relapse and get their life back on track to a bright future.