Occupational therapists work in various settings with different kinds of people and different kinds of diagnosis. They are skilled professionals that play an important role within the health care team because of their holistic approach in helping injured or disable patients achieve independence. They provide each of their patients with unique treatment plans in order to assist them in learning and relearning life skills that are necessary for them to succeed in becoming independent individuals. Occupational therapists are mostly employed in inpatient rehabilitation centers, schools, acute care hospitals, nursing homes, home health, long-term health care facilities, rehabilitation centers, outpatient care clinics, hospices, assisted living facilities, and mobility services centers.
The minimum requirement for occupational therapists to practice in the profession is to graduate with at least a Master’s degree program in occupational therapy from an accredited institution. In most States, occupational therapists also need to pass the national certification exam administered by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and be awarded with the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) title to practice professionally. For therapists to progress in their careers and to also meet renewal requirements, they must obtain professional development units (PDU) or continuing education units by enrolling in college courses, attending workshops and seminars, participating in conferences and in work-related activities, or completing online continuing education courses. In most States, continuing competency are required for occupational therapist to maintain licensure or registration. In the State of California for instance, occupational therapists that are renewing their licenses must provide proof that they have completed 24 hours of professional development unit of continuing education during the renewal period. The renewal period refers to the day the license has been given until the day it expires and it usually runs for 2 years. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers continuing education courses in practice areas such as mental health, children and youth, work and industry, rehabilitation, disability, health and wellness and aging.
Many occupational therapists seek career advancement by training in a clinical specialty or by gaining experience in treating a particular kind of medical condition or disability. Areas of specialization include mental health, pediatrics, gerontology, physical health, wellness, and geriatrics. For instance, occupational therapists specializing in pediatrics are skilled in treating developmental disorders, motor development disorders, autism, sensory processing disability and emotional and behavioral disorders. Pediatric occupational therapists can find employment in schools, children’s hospitals, and community centers. On the other hand, occupational therapists specializing in geriatrics are skilled in providing services to older adults and engaging them in activities that will help them become more independent and achieve the best quality of life. Some of the common duties performed by geriatric occupational therapists are management of impairments or conditions, adaptation to mobility equipment such as walkers and wheelchairs, simplification of tasks, modification of activities, education of caregivers, and teaching of home safety measures. There are also occupational therapists that have specialized training in dealing with mental illnesses in adults, adolescents and children. Examples of mental health conditions include addiction, dementia, schizophrenia, psychoses, mood disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders.