Occupational Therapy Assistants

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Also known as:
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, COTA, Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant, Occupational Therapist Assistants

ABOUT OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ASSISTANT CAREERS
Video transcript

Occupational therapy is designed to help people recover from disabilities caused by injury or illness. Therapists determine exercises and other activities needed for rehabilitation, and then assign occupational therapist assistants to provide hands-on help.

Under the guidance of therapists, these assistants work with people of all ages to lessen the effects of physical, mental, or developmental problems. For example, an assistant may guide an injured person through exercises to overcome the loss of a physical ability. This may require kneeling and bending to help patients, or lifting them when necessary.

Assistants are expected to carefully follow directions given by occupational therapists. They need to be observant because they are responsible for reporting on the patients' progress, or lack of progress. Many occupational therapist assistants work in hospitals. Others work in offices of occupational therapists, nursing care facilities, or in-home health care services.

Work hours vary from place to place and may include evenings and weekends. Occupational therapist assistants must have an associate degree or certificate from an accredited community college or technical school. All states require graduates to become certified by passing an examination.

Opportunities for jobs are increasing. As the population ages, more people will develop disabilities. That means that people will need the care of occupational therapist assistants.

SNAPSHOT
Assist occupational therapists in providing occupational therapy treatments and procedures. May, in accordance with state laws, assist in development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, direct activity programs, and document the progress of treatments. Generally requires formal training.
Leadership
HIGH
Critical decision making
HIGH
Level of responsibilities
LOW
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
MED
Dealing and handling conflict
LOW
Competition for this position
HIGH
Communication with others
LOW
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
HIGH
Comfort of the work setting
HIGH
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
LOW
Exposure to job hazards
LOW
Physical demands
LOW
Daily tasks

Design, fabricate, or repair assistive devices or make adaptive changes to equipment or environments.

Attend continuing education classes.

Perform clerical duties, such as scheduling appointments, collecting data, or documenting health insurance billings.

Transport patients to and from the occupational therapy work area.

Order any needed educational or treatment supplies.

Attend care plan meetings to review patient progress and update care plans.

Work under the direction of occupational therapists to plan, implement, or administer educational, vocational, or recreational programs that restore or enhance performance in individuals with functional impairments.

Evaluate the daily living skills or capacities of physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabled clients.

Demonstrate therapy techniques, such as manual or creative arts or games.

Assemble, clean, or maintain equipment or materials for patient use.

Aid patients in dressing and grooming themselves.

MAIN ACTIVITIES
Assisting and Caring for Others Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Performing General Physical Activities Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling of materials.
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Psychology Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Therapy and Counseling Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Medicine and Dentistry Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Sociology and Anthropology Knowledge of group behavior and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
Clerical Knowledge of administrative and clerical procedures and systems such as word processing, managing files and records, stenography and transcription, designing forms, and other office procedures and terminology.
TOP SKILLS
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Social Perceptiveness Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Time Management Managing one's own time and the time of others.
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Writing Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Service Orientation Actively looking for ways to help people.
Judgment and Decision Making Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.