Occupational Therapy is a Viable Part of Healthcare Occupational therapy is the practice of teaching how to do daily tasks as independently as possible along with hobbies and other activities a client wishes to do. This a very important stage of recovery for the patient’s well-being mentally and physically. These clients have been through a traumatic event such as a car wreck or have received a life changing diagnosis like parkinson’s disease. Occupational therapy should be a well-respected profession. Occupational therapy is a fairly new part of health care whereas other occupations such as doctors and nurses have been around for centuries.
The National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy was founded in 1917 and was later renamed the American Occupational Therapy Association in 1923. Even though occupational therapy was founded at this time, it did not become popular until after World War II because wounded soldiers did not know how to adjust to civilian life. At this time, occupational therapists were typically volunteers to help relieve war efforts. This led to the Vocational Rehabilitation of 1943, which allowed therapists to be paid for their services.
But, occupational therapy did not become widely known until the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 this was the first act that stated it was unlawful to discriminate against people with disabilities ( Weebly, 2016). This act also stated the fundamentals of occupational therapy, “People with mental or physical disabilities have the right to live independently, make choices, pursue careers, enjoy self determination, and be involved in American society with equal opportunity,” (Weebly, 2016, par. 8). Some say that occupational therapy is not an important part of health care.
Other workers in health care do not believe that occupational therapists should be equal to their profession or be considered an important part of the recovery process. Education Occupational therapists go to school just as long as other allied health professions. The entry level for occupational therapy is a bachelor’s degree, although a master’s degree is recommended (BLS, 2015). Other allied health occupations like phlebotomists, surgical technologists, and medical assistants only require completing a certification program or completing on-the-job training.
Some allied health jobs recommend an associate’s degree while others simply require a high school diploma. While on the other hand, occupational therapy is different requiring the completion of a licensing program in a graduate school with a certified occupational therapy program. Currently, Spalding University and Eastern Kentucky University hold the only 2 accredited occupational therapy programs in Kentucky. Each program typically accepts only 20 to 25 students each year. This makes occupational therapy programs extremely competitive.
Along with a masters degree and being accepted into an OT program a student also has to complete at least 24 weeks of supervised work under a licensed occupational therapist. After completing the program and required field work a student must pass the NBOT exam in order to become a registered therapist. After passing the NBOT a therapist can choose to specialize in a number of different areas such as low vision, mental health, or pediatrics. In which the therapist would need to take another test to be a registered occupational therapist specialized in a specific area (BLS, 2015).
Then occupational therapists must continue their education as a mandatory part of a healthcare occupation. Every healthcare occupation must continue their education for as long as one works in order to be up to date with new technology or terminology. Another aspect therapists must learn or be strengthened in are specific qualities. Communication and writing skills are vital for anyone in healthcare because patient records are transferred electronically and verbally.
For example, electronic records consist of diagnosis and official data such as blood type, whereas verbal records consist of notes such as an occupational therapist telling their clients doctor that their client has responded well to an arthritis therapy but, their client is also having what seems like a muscular weakness. The client’s doctor then might test the patient for tendonitis the next time that patient has an appointment. It is also important for these therapists to be patient, compassionate, and flexible.
When working with patients with special needs all these qualities come into place. These therapists have to work very hard to be able to do what they do by earning a master’s degree, possessing specific qualities and continuing their education as is required in all healthcare jobs. Patients Therapists work with the same type of patients as other medical professionals. Therapists commonly work with mentally handicapped children in order to teach them how to become functional in society and improve their quality of life.
Occupational therapists will commonly have at least one down syndrome patient at some point during their career. 400,000 Americans have down syndrome and 6,000 babies are born in The United States with down syndrome each year. This makes down syndrome the most common genetic condition (ndss, 2012). Therefore, an occupational therapist can expect to have several down syndrome patients in their career.
Children with down syndrome typically need help with fine motor skills, selfcare (grooming, feeding, dressing, etc. , skills in school (handwriting, cutting, sharing, etc. ) (ndss, 2012) and any other childhood activities such as games that other children can do easily but might be difficult for someone that has down syndrome. The type of down syndrome a client has and the motivation of the client and family determine how long the client requires therapy, but down syndrome clients typically receive therapy into adulthood. Once the client has reached adulthood, therapists will teach job skills and help the client find a job suitable for the client’s skills and interests.
Then, clients are monitored the rest of their life to make sure the client maintains as independent as possible. Since the average life expectancy of a down syndrome patient is 60 years (ndss, 2012), therapists typically form long-term bonds with their clients. Stroke patients also require an occupational therapist because recovery from a stroke is a lifelong process. These clients need therapy for fine motor skills, coordination, and speech. A stroke can happen at any age, so these patients can be pediatric to geriatric.
These patients tend to be very angry due to the fact that everything that they used to be able to easily now seems impossible. It is the occupational therapist’s job to ensure that recovery is possible, but this process involves dedication and is timeconsuming. Some allied health professions do not necessarily like having stroke patients because these patients usually become hostile to staff. Therapists have the difficult job of calming down these patients enough for them to trust the therapist and eventually follow their directions.
This is a long process that involves an enormous amount of patience and not every person is capable of this patience. Along with down syndrome and stroke patients, occupational therapists also have clients with parkinson’s disease and alzheimer’s disease. Both of these diseases take form in the later part of life and the therapy is similar. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive movement disorder that can cause tremors, stiff muscles, impaired coordination, and slow movement (PDF, 2016). So, therapists teach clients ways to continue everyday activities with these impairments.
Alzheimer’s disease is a form of progressive dementia that causes lapses in memory and confusion. Therapy for alzheimer’s usually involves making the patient’s home a safe environment until the disease evolves to the point that home care is not safe without constant surveillance from a sitter or family member. Once diagnosed with parkinson’s or alzheimer’s, the patient is considered to be in early end of life care. This is what so many other health care workers consider very difficult, although some healthcare workers never experience the death process.
All in all, occupational therapists work with a variety of illnesses and age groups. Helping Most importantly, occupational therapists help people, which are the basis of health care. Therapists help patients physically get their life back together but also emotionally by providing emotional support. Occupational therapists understand that their patients have a great deal going on because it feels like that patient’s life is falling apart at that moment. Just like with stroke patients that become irritable with their situation, other patients do as well.
Not being in control of one’s body is a scary situation that one is not used to, a study in Spain showed that an occupational therapy program helped stroke patients recover in every category such as, feeding bathing, dressing, grooming and many other categories associated with everyday life (Alivia, 2015). But, clients are not the only one in need of counsel at this time. Family members also feel unsteady. For example, parents of a teenage daughter who was in a car wreck that left their daughter paralyzed from the waist down would need help dealing with it.
A therapist would teach the daughter how to maneuver through places and also help the parents get through this difficult time and teach them how to make their home more convenient for her. One of the qualities needed for occupational therapists listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook is compassion (BLS, 2015). A client does not necessarily have to have had an injury or diagnosis to qualify for occupational therapy. Therapists also help people that lack specific occupational skills. For example, a mother that has trouble shopping and cooking for her family might want to receive help from a therapist (O’Brien, 2013).
In which the occupational therapist will then create a specific therapy program to improve the special skills she is lacking. Due to The Americans with Disabilities Act created in 1990, every American now has the right to equal opportunity employment, city or state services (programs such as 4-H and The Boys and Girls Club of America), transportation (public such as busses or private such as a taxi) and the right to have appropriate accommodations (wheelchair accessibility) (Weebly, 2016). Therefore, occupational therapists serve as a type of an enforcer for this law.
Once the therapist’s client is of appropriate age and possesses the skills to maintain a job, the therapist discusses any accommodations that the client might need in a work setting to the client’s employer along with the appropriate way to treat their client. These therapists provide emotional support along with professional healthcare. Occupational therapy uses a combination of social science and healthcare making it a respectable branch of allied health. These therapists work hard every day doing what they do to provide a great recovery process. This form of therapy will become a well-respected profession to all in due time.