Occupational Therapist Career Information
What an Occupational Therapist does
An occupational therapist helps mentally, physically, developmentally or emotionally disabled people improve their ability to perform tasks in their daily life. An occupational therapist not only helps people improve basic motor functions and reasoning abilities but also compensates for permanent loss of function. The ultimate goal of an occupational therapist is to help people have independence and satisfying lives.
Take for instance, arthritis. People suffering from this chronic disease find even simple daily activities like dressing, cooking, eating, using a computer, etc very difficult to perform. An occupational therapist is a health care professional who makes a complete evaluation of the impact of the disease on the activities of the patient at home and in work situations. An occupational therapist also considers hobbies and recreational activities when making their assessment.
An occupational therapist first has a detailed talk with the patient by asking questions about hygiene, grooming, eating, drinking, dressing, getting in and out of bed, driving, cleaning, cooking, shopping, working, and sex life. An occupational therapist also conducts a physical examination, which extensively concentrates on range-of-motion and the observation of deformities. An occupational therapist then assesses the need for splints or supports, which might benefit the patient. In some cases, the therapist also helps design specific splints and assertive devices.
It is the responsibility of an occupational therapist to come up with newer ways to triumph over the imposed limitations. An occupational therapist can help the patient reduce joint strain, prevent further joint damage and conserve energy by teaching joint protection techniques. Physical exercises are used to increase strength and dexterity, while paper and pencil exercises may be chosen to improve visual acuity and the ability to discern patterns.
A person with short-term memory loss, for instance, may be encouraged to make lists to aid recall. Someone with coordination problems is assigned exercises to improve hand-eye coordination.
An occupational therapist also uses computer programs to help clients improve decision-making, abstract reasoning, problem solving, and perceptual skills, as well as memory, sequencing, and coordination - all of which are important for independent living.
For those with permanent functional disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy, an occupational therapist helps in the use of adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs, splints, and aids for eating and dressing. An occupational therapist also designs or makes special equipment needed at home or work. Therapists develop computer-aided adaptive equipment and teach clients with severe limitations how to use it. This equipment enables people to communicate better and to control other aspects of their environment.
An occupational therapist may work exclusively with individuals in a particular age group, or with particular disabilities.
In schools, for example, an occupational therapist evaluates a child's abilities, recommends and provides therapy, modifies classroom equipment, and in general, helps children participate as fully as possible in school programmes and activities.
An occupational therapist may also work with individuals in rehabilitation centers to help them deal with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, eating disorders, or stress related disorders.
An occupational therapist in hospitals and other health care and community settings usually works for long hours. Those in schools may also participate in meetings and other activities, during and after the school day. Occupational therapists also work in various non-governmental organizations
An occupational therapist also helps the elderly population. He or she helps senior citizens lead more productive, active and independent lives through a variety of methods, including the use of adaptive equipment.
Recording a client's activities and progress is an important part of an occupational therapists’ job. Accurate records are essential for evaluating clients, billing, and reporting to physicians and others.
Occupational therapists work in:
In hospitals and other health care and community settings
In schools, evaluating child's abilities, recommending and providing therapy
In mental health settings where they treat the mentally ill, mentally retarded, or emotionally disturbed
In rehabilitation centers to help them deal with alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, eating disorders, or stress related disorders
Occupational therapists also work in various non-governmental organizations
The largest number of jobs is in hospitals, including many in rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals. Other major employers include offices and clinics of occupational therapists and other health practitioners, school systems, home health agencies, nursing homes, community mental health centers, daycare programmes, etc.
There is scope for private practice wherein as a Occupational therapists you see clients referred by physicians or other health professionals, or consulting services to nursing homes, schools, adult daycare programs, and home health agencies.
Over the long run, the demand for occupational therapists should continue to rise as a result of growth in the number of individuals with disabilities or limited function requiring therapy services. The rapidly growing population with 75 years of age and above (an age that suffers from a high incidence of disabling conditions), will also demand additional services. Medical advances now enable more patients with critical problems to survive. These patients may need extensive therapy.
Hospitals will continue to employ a large number of occupational therapists to provide therapy services to acutely ill patients. They will also need occupational therapists to staff their outpatient rehabilitation programmes.
In schools therapists will be needed to help children with disabilities prepare to enter special education programmes.
Abilities & Traits Required
Occupational therapists need patience and strong interpersonal skills to inspire trust and respect in their clients. Ingenuity and imagination in adapting activities to individual needs are assets.
Those working in home health care must be able to successfully adapt to a variety of settings.
The job of an Occupational therapists can be tiring, because therapists are on their feet much of the time. Those providing home health care may spend time commuting from appointment to appointment. Occupational therapists need to be physically strong as they prone to back strain from lifting and moving clients and equipment.
A BSc in Occupational Therapy can be done after 10+2 with physics, chemistry and biology. After that you can either start work or go on to do your Master's in the same subject, which will give you an edge over other bachelor's degree holders.
Starting remuneration would be in the range of Rs 30000-40000 per month. Salary increase will be as same as in the case of other paramedical professionals.
As a self employed professional, one can earn around Rs 40000 or more per month.
Interview with an Occupational Therapist
Occupational Therapist Interview
Dr. Vipul Chavda, Sports Physiotherapy
Who is a Sports Physiotherapist?
Basically, the job profile of a sports physiotherapist is the same as a physiotherapist. The only difference is that we are a little more aggressive than them. Generally people who come to us are healthy but want to know how they can be more fit and prevent injuries. Sports Physiotherapy is actually not a cure. It is only a supplement to the medicine.
Who are your patients?
Most of my patients are young and sports inclined - tennis, badminton or cricket players. Parents bring their children to us to know how they can prevent injuries and play for many years. Things like how to prepare for training, what should they avoid, what is the right technique to play the game, what should be the ideal weight of the bat or the girth of the racket, etc are dealt by us.
What is your job profile?
It is actually like a detective's job. If I get a child with pain in the right forearm, I have to find out the reasons for it before it becomes a major problem. So we check his height, weight, racket, how many hours he plays, etc. We also get patients who are injured. In cases where an operation can be avoided we prescribe certain exercises. We also treat old people with arthritis, asthma, backache, cardiac patients, etc.
So can a sports physiotherapist handle patients independently or does he have to depend on a General Practitioner?
For patients from non-sports background we still have to depend on Orthopedic surgeons or general practitioners because we have certain limitations. We don't have a counsel. Though we are allowed to write 'Dr.' in front of our names if something goes wrong we can be in legal trouble. So we can't prescribe medicines.
But as far as the sports field is concerned we are more independent. On the grounds only a sports physiotherapist is allowed with the sportsmen. For general physiotherapy like backaches, knee pain, etc. we still have to depend on general practitioners. We are in the process of opening a sports medicine clinic at Andheri Sports Complex.
Why did you choose sports medicine as a major? It's quite rare isn't it?
After I did my Bachelor's of three and a half years in Physiotherapy from Manipal University in Karnataka I had to choose between Orthopedics, sports, neurology and chest for my specialisation. I chose sports as I was interested in it.
Tell us something about your background?
I did my schooling from Hansraj Morarji. Junior college was done in Bhavan's College. After that for a year I worked with Bombay Hospital. Then I did my Master's in Sports Physiotherapy from Manipal University. Since the past six months I have been with Bombay Hospital. I am also associated with Dr Anand Joshi who is a Sports Medicine doctor. I also have an independent clinic called Prakruti.
What are the personal attributes required to get in to this field?
You have to be a sports person or at least sports inclined. Basically you will address all the needs of a person who exercises. So if you have to prescribe suitable exercises to someone who is training for international swimming competition you have to keep in mind that he would have started practising at the age of 3 or 4. By the time he actually qualifies he is 10. Every day he covers 100 meters water swimming and he must be making at least 10-15 rounds. During all these years how many times he repeats his shoulder movement and how much force is being applied by water? So unless you have played the game, or observed it at close quarters or at least read about it you will never know how much effort it takes, which joints are more susceptible, etc. So first and foremost is sports inclination.
Another thing is that you have to be physically fit. This is a very strenuous job. Often you have to be on the field for hours with the players, monitoring the game. If a player gets injured you have to carry him to the dressing room. So it could be far more difficult for a woman.
What is the scope for this career in India?
Given the fact that sports is getting a lot of attention (and I am not just talking about cricket), the scope for such a field is quite good. There is a dearth of qualified Sports Physiotherapist in this field. We only have old physiotherapist with either diploma or bachelor's degree. There are rarely any physiotherapists with a Master's in Sports Physiotherapy.
Qualified people get good jobs. But again the salary is the depressing part. Qualified Sports Physiotherapist are paid as much as plain physiotherapist. Salary scale if you are employed with a hospital is Rs 2500-3000 for an 8 hours job. So most Sports Physiotherapists prefer to start their private practice. But even in private practice you could earn not more than Rs 1000-1500 a day.
After a degree in Sports Physiotherapy how does one start in this profession? What are the job avenues?
After your Bachelor's you need to have worked with a hospital like Nanavati or Bombay Hospital before doing your Master's. Once you have built up your reputation you could contact professional clubs like Mahindra Sports Club, CCI, Mumbai Cricket Association, Ranji Trophy team, etc. After signing a yearly contract with these clubs you also get to travel with the teams. Of course you have the option of private practice.