Are Occupational Therapist Assistants (OTAs) in Demand?
Healthcare services are expanding nationwide, and with growth comes opportunity. A renewed focus on preventive and rehabilitative care creates an unprecedented demand for therapy professionals. As an occupational therapist assistant (OTA), you’ll help vulnerable individuals maximize their independence while building a rewarding career.
What Does an Occupational Therapist Assistant Do?
OTAs teach people strategies to overcome physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges related to activities of daily living.
In this role, you might:
- Recommend home safety modifications for seniors with cognitive impairments
- Set up a sensory-friendly workspace at school for a child with autism
- Teach a stroke survivor how to utilize assistive communication technology
- Assist an older adult with vision loss by using adaptive tools for reading and writing
- Help a child with a spinal cord injury learn to dress independently
- Advocate for someone with mental illness during a job search
- Conduct a group exercise session in a senior center
- Design a workplace ergonomics program
- Educate families on focusing strategies for teens with ADHD
Are Occupational Therapists in Demand?
If you’re interested in a healthcare career with personal and professional growth potential, there’s no better time to be an occupational therapist assistant. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 23% rise in demand for OTAs through 2032. As a profession, demand is growing due to a broad range of predictable and persistent factors, such as:
An Aging Population
US demographic trends are changing. As millions of Baby Boomers retire, the need for preventive and rehabilitative services is expanding. Aging adults experience more illnesses and injuries, requiring more frequent therapy. And the prevalence of chronic health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, is on the rise.
But while medical treatments and technological advances have increased survival rates, many individuals struggle to maintain functional independence. OTAs play an instrumental role in rehabilitation and recovery, helping people maintain their quality of life.
The Cost Conundrum
The US spends an estimated $4 trillion-plus annually on healthcare, much of which is for treating preventable injuries and standardized care. Occupational therapist assistants help lower costs by addressing risk factors before they escalate.
Safety modifications at home, for example, can prevent falls and reduce hospital admissions, lowering long-term healthcare expenses. OTAs also work with employers to prevent injuries and lost time through education and ergonomics.
Early Intervention Needs
Early intervention for children with developmental challenges improves social and educational outcomes. Occupational therapist assistants help provide vital services to children at home, in schools, or wherever they need support with learning or emotional development.
Mental Health Support
Rates of mental illness are rising as people struggle with modern lifestyles. OTAs work with other healthcare professionals to manage these disorders’ emotional, cognitive, and behavioral aspects, mitigating the economic and human toll.
They may, for example, provide social skills training for kids who struggle with relationships at school or life skills education for someone just released from prison. Teaching people to cope with the symptoms of mental illness supports long-term recovery.
Advances in assistive technology have expanded the scope of occupational therapy. People can now leverage computers, mechanical devices, and service animals to enhance their independence.
However, the use of technology can be complex and requires instruction to use and integrate into daily life. OTAs help people make the most of technological aids and assistive devices.
Where Can OTAs Work?
OTAs are employed in a surprisingly diverse range of settings due to the broad scope of occupational therapy practice. So, while a job should reflect your strengths and interests, there’s no limit to where you can work if you’re willing to adapt your skills to different environments.
The possibilities include:
OTAs working in hospitals assist in rehabilitating inpatients and outpatients patients recovering from illness, injury, or surgeries, facilitating therapeutic activities, such as teaching patients to walk with a cane or use adaptive bathing equipment. You’ll work briefly with each patient, doing your small part to facilitate a safe discharge home.
Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities
Rehabilitation centers offer intensive, inpatient therapy services for people recovering from conditions that impair daily function, such as strokes and traumatic injuries. They engage patients in activities that enhance their self-care ability.
For example, retrieving patients to eat with weighted utensils can help stroke patients regain their eating independence, while memory exercises can improve cognition. Inpatient rehabilitation facilities are ideal for someone who enjoys working with the same patients consistently, seeing problems through from start to finish.
Outpatient Rehab Centers
Outpatient rehab centers focus on quality-of-life issues that don’t require hospitalization. Services may include ergonomics training for people with repetitive injuries, ADL and safety training for aging adults, and ongoing cognitive rehabilitation to mitigate the long-term effects of neurological injuries. In this setting, you’ll encounter new and unusual challenges every day.
OTAs work with seniors in nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities, addressing the needs of residents with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Responsibilities involve preserving or maximizing self-care potential through activities such as ADL training, environmental modification, and recommendations for adaptive equipment.
Home Health Care
Occupational therapy is often prescribed when patients leave the hospital. The goal is to help people make functional and safety adaptations in response to health changes. An OTA may, for example, assist a client who’s lost their hearing and learn to use a visual or bed shaker fire alarm, devices that rely on sight and sensation.
OTAs address the unique needs of children within the school environment. The goal is to promote academic success through immediate intervention. Pre-school children with developmental delays, sensory processing issues, and mental health challenges may have difficulty participating in educational activities. OTAs help adapt their learning environment while collaborating with parents and educators to reinforce treatment goals; it’s a team effort.
Supporting children with sensory, developmental, and motor challenges is a special mission with extraordinary rewards. In a pediatric clinic, you’ll measure kids for wheelchairs, recommend home care equipment, and train parents to assist with ADL care.
Mental Health Facilities
OTAs help individuals with psychiatric conditions develop coping strategies to improve daily function. Identifying stress triggers, for example, makes it possible to avoid or adapt to events that provoke mental health symptoms, allowing people to work and maintain healthy relationships despite their disorder.
Community Health Centers
Communities everywhere are establishing health centers as part of an aging-in-place model where adults, especially seniors, can access health services. In this setting, OTAs work with other caregivers on fall prevention programs, home safety assessments, and other outreach efforts that prevent injuries.
Employers incur significant costs related to workplace injuries. Through ergonomics assessments and body mechanics training, OTAs help businesses adapt their environments and work practices to reduce musculoskeletal injuries.
OTAs support reintegration into the community by assisting prisoners with life skills before release. You’ll assist with vocational rehabilitation and social skills training while providing much-needed emotional support.
How Do You Become an OTA?
Becoming an OTA requires an associate degree. Technical schools offer accessible, job-focused programs with a comprehensive curriculum, including general education courses, core classes, and hands-on clinical fieldwork. Students graduate work-ready, prepared for certification, and primed for success.
Demand for workers is high throughout the healthcare industry. However, few careers are as dynamic and innovative as occupational therapy. Doctors may save lives, but OTAs help people live them.
Let CBD College prepare you for an entry-level allied health role. As an Occupational Therapy Assistant, you can expect to work with patients by providing therapy in exciting environments such as hospitals, nursing facilities, occupational therapists’ offices, and home health services.
Contact us now to learn more.