Where Occupational Therapists Work and Are Needed Most
As an occupational therapist, you have the chance to practice in a variety of settings and can specialize in various fields of study. A lot of the time fieldwork experiences provide us with a chance to experience a few occupational therapy settings. However, these great learning opportunities cannot begin to expose you to the diversity of occupational therapy jobs available to you. Let’s give you a quick guide into some of the places where occupational therapists work to explore and tell you where there is a need for our profession.
Home Health Care
There are plenty of home health care agencies looking to employ an occupational therapist to service their coverage area. Oftentimes, they are a great place to work where you create your own schedule and have some independence in your workflow. Insurance companies are looking to reduce the need for hospitalizations and home health care allows for preventative care for readmissions.
A hospital can provide even further opportunities to specialize as an occupational therapist. Depending upon your location, hospitals can have units such as the intensive care, neonatal intensive care, burn, neuro, orthopedic, cardiac, and oncology, just to name a few. There are many continuing education courses that you can attend and certifications to complete that will allow you to provide best practice while working in one of these units. With the influx of patients requiring hospitalization, you may have luck applying to a hospital for a job. Many hospitals are run under a larger company, which may give you more opportunities for employment.
Acute, Subacute, and Restorative Rehabilitation Centers
Rehabilitation centers employ occupational therapists to create a plan of care to maximize a person’s potential after an acute illness or procedure. Currently, there is a large demand for rehabilitation beds with more people having medical complications related to the stress on the medical system from the COVID 19 pandemic.
Skilled Nursing Facility
A skilled nursing facility, other-wise known as a nursing home, provides an occupational therapist the opportunity to work with a geratric population that has seen a significant psychosocial change during this pandemic. With less interaction with family and friends due to the strict visitation policies to prevent COVID 19 spread, there has been a decline in occupational engagement.
If you are ambitious and want to start your own occupational therapy outpatient practice or want to join an established business, there are a plethora of specialties you can obtain to support your niche. An occupational therapist may chose to obtain a certification for lymphedema, cranio-sacral therapy, splinting, certified hand therapist, driving rehabilitation, ergonomics, adaptive technology, low vision, seating and mobility, ergonomics, hippotherapy (utilizing horses as a part of the therapeutic intervention process), and so many more. These specialities can boost your resume as employers are seeking to find therapists that can bring new clients to their businesses.
Occupational therapy has been strongly rooted to serve our mental health community. Today, there are a variety of settings that an occupational therapist can work in to support those with mental health needs. There are psychiatric hospitals and clinics, drug rehabilitation facilities, advocacy centers such as the ARC (New York State), and group homes that cater to those with mental health disorders. Mental Health has become a very important part of societal health initiatives and occupational therapists continue to push to show their worth in these areas.
School aged children have experienced a significant change in how they were expected to learn during the COVID 19 pandemic. An unfortunate result can be seen in an increase in occupational therapy referrals in the school system. More children are demonstrating a delay in their development, and this has increased the demand for in school services, including occupational therapy.
Similar to the school setting, early intervention services have also seen an increase in referrals for occupational therapy. The pandemic has decreased social interaction and has promoted the use of technology rather than environmental play. With increased education for families on signs of developmental delay, there are also opportunities for occupational therapists to assist with state funded screenings for children to determine if they may qualify for an occupational therapy referral at a younger age. Feeding, eating, and swallowing certification can be obtained and is often helpful for all ages, but often seen in this age group. There are courses specifically designed to educate further on autism, reflex integration, and sensory regulation.
An occupational therapist can be employed to teach other aspiring occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants. Generally, these job requirements will focus on experience within a practice field of occupational therapy and like to see a candidate who has participated in research projects. You may find yourself also giving lectures and creating continuing education courses for your fellow occupational therapists.
Props to those seeking to further the foundation of occupational therapy through evidence based practice research. Often, large educational hospitals and universities will have the opportunity for occupational therapists to create or participate in research for a variety of applications.
Another option would be joining the military to serve as an occupational therapist to active soldiers through the branches of the armed forces. There are also many opportunities to serve our veterans through veteran focused hospitals and clinics.
Yes, you can be an occupational therapist in a prison. Community re-integration may be a focus of your employment or it may be implemented similar to an outpatient clinic.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has some great resources for finding your niche as an occupational therapist. Though certifications and state laws vary depending upon where you practice, you will have plenty of areas to share your knowledge of occupational therapy and help your community. Luckily, as an occupational therapist, you have many skills to support various clients and work within many settings. You have the opportunity to participate in travel assignments through a variety of companies to see new places. Look around, you may just find your next occupational therapy job close by.