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How to become an Occupational Therapist

occupational therapist careers

What does a Occupational Therapist do?

Occupational therapists aim to assist people of all ages to overcome the effects of physical, mental or social problems resulting from birth, illness, an accident or the ageing process. Therapists work with patients on a one-to-one basis, adapting treatment programmes to suit each individual's unique lifestyle. Their work can involve:

  • teaching an older patient recovering from a stroke how to dress themselves
  • encouraging someone suffering with depression to take up a hobby
  • helping patients achieve any goal they have identified as being important to them
  • putting forward suggestions on ways to adapt an office so that an employee injured in a car accident can return to work.
Therapists keep details of patients' progress, and consider ways of adapting treatments to make them more effective. They may counsel patients, their families and carers, and help them adjust to permanent disabilities. They try to encourage a positive attitude in their patients, which can help them retain activity levels for as long as possible. Some of the patients they work with have conditions such as Motor Neurone Disease or Multiple Sclerosis, which means they gradually become less mobile and more disabled.

Occupational therapists work as part of a team of professionals including physiotherapists, nurses and social workers. Therapists can specialise in, for example, burns or plastic surgery, cardiac or stroke rehabilitation, paediatrics, orthopaedics (spinal injury), community disability services, or in local mental health teams. They can work with patients for months, or for just a few sessions.

What's the working environment like working as a Occupational Therapist?

Most occupational therapists work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Part-time work is available.

The work takes place in a variety of settings including hospitals, health centres, residential/nursing homes, GP surgeries, prisons, schools and universities, factories and in patients’ own homes.

Travelling may be involved, therefore, the ability to drive is an advantage.

What does it take to become a Occupational Therapist?

To be an occupational therapist, you should:

  • have an interest in science
  • have a creative, adaptable mind, so you can design and develop treatments to suit the needs of each patient
  • have good written and verbal communication skills
  • enjoy working with a variety of people and have the ability to form effective relationships quickly
  • be patient and determined with a positive attitude, able to encourage patients who are disappointed and frustrated
  • be tolerant and sensitive to other peoples priorities/lifestyles
  • have a practical approach to problems
  • have a high level of mental and physical stamina to cope with the demands of an often stressful job
  • have a sense of humour and a strong desire to help people.

Occupational Therapist Career Opportunities

Occupational therapists are increasingly in demand in both the NHS and social services. Work is available throughout the country.

With two years post-qualifying experience, prospects are good for applying for more senior posts. Some therapists progress to senior clinician or head of occupational therapy services in the NHS. There may also be opportunities to become a general health or social services manager.

Some occupational therapists move into private practice, or self-employment/freelance work. Therapists can also work in education, or move into research.

All qualified UK educated occupational therapists are recognised by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) as meeting the required standard necessary to practise overseas.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Occupational Therapist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850
Email: learning@nhscareers.nhs.uk

NHS Careers
PO Box 376
Bristol
BS99 3EY
Tel: 0845 606 0655
www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

British Association of Occupational Therapists/College of Occupational Therapists
106-114 Borough High Street
Southwark
London
SE1 1LB
Tel: 020 7357 6480
www.cot.co.uk

Health Professions Council
Park House
184 Kennington Park Road
London
SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866
www.hpc-uk.org

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