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Sharon Bennett, an occupational therapist at Saint Agnes Hospital, has been in the profession for more than 30 years. She writes here about her career.
What does your job entail? I work in a hospital setting and my job entails evaluating and treating in-patients and out-patients with a multitude of disabilities (such as neurologic diseases and disabilities, shoulder or hand injuries, arthritis, post joint replacements,chronic pain, oncological diseases ). I teach them techniques and strategies to improve their independence in daily activities that are necessary and important to them; whether it be improving their strength and coordination, a one-handed technique, use of adaptive equipment, strategies to improve cognitive (or visual) processing to perform the activity, or evaluating components needed for driving. The "Occupation" in occupational therapy is whatever is meaningful to the person (can range from sitting up to feed oneself, transferring into a shower, applying makeup, use of a computer, or lifting machinery for a job). In treating in-patients, we do not have the luxury of seeing the patients very long, and they are provided with priority recommendations and treatment in basic ADL's (activities of daily living; feeding, bathing, toileting and dressing) or an exercise program of breathing techniques for energy conservation, pain, etc. and UB strenghthening. With out-patients, the focus is more on returning to hobbies, housework, and jobs in addition to self care.
What kind of schooling or training did you go through? I graduated quite a long time ago, and I have a bachelor's of science in OT. I was required to do three 2-3 month internships in 3 areas of OT (adult physical dysfunction, psychiatry, and pediatrics). (I later became certified in pain management and ergonomics and was trained in biofeedback for pain management). A master's degree in occupational therapy is now required by all college OT programs and two 3-month internships are required; one in adult physical dysfunction, and one in Psychiatry. Some schools have the option to do a third internship in a specialty area (pediatrics, hand injuries, etc). A few schools no longer require a psychiatric internship, but a different area of physical disabilities.
Median salary:$72,320 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
What inspired you to this career? I originally heard of OT when I was 14, from reading a biography of an OT that worked with veterans after the war to help them to return to work or a hobby after losing a limb, etc. I then got in touch with an OT at an area hospital and volunteered with her during my summer vacations. I thought it was an exciting and gratifying field of work, because many times I saw instant improvement in people's abilities AND their mood after an OT session. The other appealing feature of OT is one can work in a variety of settings (school system, hospital, psychiatric center, home care, rehab center, nursing home or private practice) and one can work part time or full time.
What do you like best about your job?My favorite part of my job is when I can make a difference in my patient's quality of life activities but also learning from my patients. I also work with a whole team (of occupational, physical, and speech therapists), and we all learn from each other and try to treat each patient as if he or she is our only one!!
What are the challenges? Some of the challenges would be when patients do not progress in spite of being motivated and working hard with their home ex. program (for ex. with trying to restore a paralyzed or weakend arm or manage a painful shoulder). Other challenges are when patients can benefit from out-pt. OT, but insurance does not cover it, or it does not cover a Clinical driving evaluation or adaptations that are needed for improved safety and independence.
June 7, 2012