They help people in need to have independent, productive, and satisfying lives. Let’s meet the occupational therapist.
An occupational therapist looks at assisting a person to become as independent as possible - like self-care, like getting dressed in the morning, brushing teeth, getting meals ready. We have a meeting with the client, build a rapport, and assess what they can do - so physically, mentally, socially. What their environment is like. where they live finding out what is most important of their goals, and really working with them to achieve those goals.
“So here we are in Sandy’s bathroom, and what we are going to do is look at how we can adapt her shower because showering is an activity that is important to Sandy, and we want to make sure she can do it safely and independently, and we’ve brought in an aid – this is a tub transfer bench – to help that.”
Typically, an occupational therapist's hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 4:30, with lots of opportunities to work full-time. You can also work part time if you want - if you have families or other things you’re interested in – at your leisure. There’s a lot of flexibility in the profession.
[On location with client, Sandy] “Sandy, can we get you to come on in?” – where can I ask a watch her do this skill to see if this aid helps.
I was in my early 20s on a bus in Thailand, and I met an occupational therapist. I had no idea what an OT was...and met her, and I was super-inspired. So I went to school, and I’ve been traveling with my job, I’ve been working with people to motivate and inspire, educate, coach them, and it’s been a great career. For all the provinces that have an OT school, you have to have a Masters degree, so first you have to graduate high school, then you would need to do a four-year bachelor degree, and that can be in any field. And then you would apply for a graduate program, so a Masters program to do two years after that.
[Back with Sandy] "This is something were going to do to help someone become more independent, and this is a goal for Sandy so it’s a really important piece of the puzzle here."
Having really strong communication skills is so important, and a love of working with people. So being interested in people, wanting to work with people, wanting to assist people. I would even say motivate, inspire, coach people - like you actually want to help people achieve what they want to achieve in life.
So, as an occupational therapist you and a client would come here and help select equipment for them based on their needs?
Absolutely. So, a place like this we would come with a client after we have done an assessment and really look at what kinds of equipment could assess them and being more independent. You are working with a lot of equipment. You can also be working with exercises, range of motion, checking their skills, setting up activities. So, you need to be able to use your hands to have physical stamina, and that’s an important part of the job, too.
Sometimes you’re working with rehab assistants - other members of the team - and you’re delegating tasks to them. You might be doing that with the client, so setting up a way to use a piece of equipment or how to do a certain task if you’re doing an assessment, and have the ability to be assertive. So that’s an important skill in this job.
Problem-solving seems to be a large part of your job.
Yes, it is. It’s a big, big part. So, you have to be creative. You have to be able to really analyze a situation – evaluate, try things out. So we do a lot of trying, and go “oh that may not work for a client,” and then redo it again. So that’s why we do a thorough assessment to start and then start playing around with equipment after to see what meets their needs.
There are so many great opportunities for collaboration, private practice, new interesting fields. You can work doing policy, facilitating and training groups, working with employees, you can work with the public. So it’s really broad-based, and I think it’s an excellent base of skills that leads you into different kinds of areas. So I think having the degree OT behind you opens up a lot of opportunities because you’ve got really clinical, analytical, people skills that can be used in so many ways.
So now what is the most rewarding part of your job?
For me, it’s looking at a client who may not believe that they can do something and to hopefully really educate, inspire, coach, empower them through equipment – through information – to achieve some of the things that they thought they couldn’t.
What I would suggest to people looking at occupational therapy is to do some volunteer work or set up a meeting to talk with an occupational therapist because that you can get to know a little bit more and find out if there’s a certain part of OT that really inspires you.
Some of the skills you’ll need include motor coordination, manual dexterity, general learning ability. you’ll also need to be social, innovative, directive.
You’ll usually require more than four years of post secondary education.
The average salary can range from $53-$66,000 per year.
The future outlook for this job is promising, as employment opportunities will be increasing in the coming years.
IDWIL is grateful for the opportunity to use and share the video interview work of CareerTrekBC, an initiative to catalog video interviews with workers of various careers that is sponsored by Canadian government organizationsWorkBCandBC Jobs Plan.
CareerTrekBC does an amazing job of producing high quality videos, interviewing a diverse set of careers, and identifying the major skillsets that are needed for the specific jobs.
Project:IDWIL will additionally identify the underlying personal values and drivers that can be associated with these career fields.