Everyone wants to be part of the next best trend, but it’s hard to know what that next big thing is. Healthcare continues to expand and one of the most exciting developments in healthcare is occupational therapy. Graduates of occupational therapy schools are the ones who are teaching compassionate, creative-minded students to become an occupational therapy assistant – an OTA. Even more impressive, it’s only two years to an OTA degree.
So, What Does an OTA Do?
Think of the OTA profession as the engine that takes occupational therapy from theory to real-life benefits, directly helping clients to live as independently as they possibly can.
You’re right in that OTAs have quite a unique skill set. Occupational therapy assistant schools seek students with a talent for coaching and personal encouragement – they make a world of difference for those facing developmental, emotional, mental, physical, sensory, and injury-induced challenges.
These individuals need assistance and guidance to reach the goals they can’t quite reach by themselves.
“We’ve seen an increased need for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants pretty consistently for the last 10 years,” said Amy Lamb, former president of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). She noted the perception of occupational therapy led people to believe practitioners were involved in rehabilitation activities – recovering from strokes, heart attacks, and injuries. In truth, that’s only part of it. “Really, we’re a health and wellness profession,” she said.
How OTAs Provide Hope, Help, Healing
All that OTAs learn to do in occupational therapy school is amazingly diverse.
• An OTA can help a child overcome developmental delays so he or she can master basic daily activities though “play” activities. These can improve the fine motor skills needed for handwriting, or improve coordination and balance so they can confidently participate in recreation activities with their friends.
• An OTA can help a senior adult overcome cognitive challenges by using a personal digital assistant (PDA) to compensate for a loss of memory or organizational difficulties. OTAs also work with family members or caregivers, showing them ways to participate in the senior’s desire for the best possible quality of life.
• An OTA can help speed up the recovery time from an injury, sometimes by beginning therapy while still in the hospital. If recovering at home, OTAs can assess home safety issues, or introduce assistive tools that allow for reaching objects or getting dressed by themselves.
Why OT is the New Focus in Healthcare Delivery
While the concepts of professional occupational therapy were established in 1917, recent studies and research findings show occupational therapy is part of a comprehensive, top-down health and wellness approach.
Staffing company Nurse Registry puts the value of OT practitioners like OTAs this way: “Occupational therapy is dedicated to the improvement and maximization of function and performance so that people can live healthier, more productive, and more satisfying lives.”
OT involvement can also reduce the cost of healthcare: A 2016 research report in Medical Care Research and Review found additional spending by hospitals for OT activities had a significant association with lower hospital readmission rates for patients recovering from heart failure, pneumonia, and heart attacks.
The practitioners doing one-on-one work with these clients are the OTAs.
OTA Salary, Career Outlook
So what about salaries for occupational therapy assistants? A certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) earns a median salary of $58,517, according to Salary.com. Newly graduated OTAs earn between $46,000 and $51,000 per year.
The OTA profession is set to grow by 33% through at least 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The 2-Year Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree at CUKC
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, healthcare-focused university located in Overland Park, Kansas. The two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program at CUKC covers 16 core courses along with the four-to-five months of required fieldwork experience. This comprehensive coursework prepares students to sit for the national certifying exam and become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
At CUKC, the OTA program offers class starts in spring, summer, and fall each year. Highlights of our OTA program include:
• All training and skills, presented in classes, patient care exercises, and problem/solution demonstrations
• On-campus simulated living quarters lab
• Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE)
• Guaranteed admission for eligible students who complete all required prerequisite coursework at CUKC, meet all other criteria, and all satisfy all OTA program considerations.
April is Occupational Therapy Month, a special time to think seriously about a profession that helps others reach their full potential. In fact, “living life to fullest” is this year’s OT month theme. When you want a career that’s all about helping people rise above the challenges in their life, April is the time.
Check out what it’s like to be an OTA by downloading the free CUKC ebook today: Your Complete Guide to an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career.