Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) are healthcare support personnel who work under the direction of occupational therapists and help patients suffering from impairments return to a normal life. Occupational therapy can be used to improve the lives of those experiencing physical, emotional, and mental impairments and disabilities. While the occupational therapist is in charge of determining an appropriate treatment plan for each patient, assistants help therapists execute this plan. They may watch as patients perform prescribed exercises or activities to ensure that they are doing them correctly; they also track patients' improvements and notify therapists about anything impeding their progress. Some perform administrative duties as well, like billing a patient's insurance company or scheduling future appointments.
Most occupational therapy assistants begin their career by completing an associate degree program approved by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. These degrees include an overview of medical science, anatomy, physiology, and treatment plans for different patient populations, as well as a 16-week clinical internship. Along with graduation from an accredited program, many states require OTAs to pass a licensure exam before they can become employed. The national exam offered by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy is required by some states.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a very rapid 30 percent increase in OTA positions by 2018, and job prospects should be very good for assistants with the proper training and licenses. Occupational therapy will increase in demand in the coming years, as the elderly population of the United States grows and requires more rehabilitative services.
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