Occupational therapists/OT students! Lots of questions!

posted 3 years ago in Career
Post # 2
9 posts
  • Wedding: September 2014

Hi there! I am just finishing up my last few months of OT school.  I have finished all of the classroom work am doing my final fieldword experience at an outpatient rehab clinic.  I went to columbia university in NYC.  

I worked as a nursing assistant for 2 years hoping to get my foot in the door to become a physician assistant.  When I shadowed PA’s, there was something lacking for me.  There was hardly a connection with patients and only symptoms were being treated, not the causes of those symptoms.  Discouraged, I continued working as a CNA and found occupational therapy.  One day, I was about to dress one of my patients for the day when the OT came in.  The patient was a stroke victim, could not move his right side, could not speak or do anything for himself, or so i thought.  The OT asked me to stay in the room to help her.  She told the patient that she wanted him to help us as much as he could even though it would be hard.  So, instead of the patient just laying there while I washed him with soap and water, while I rolled him side to side lifted each of his extremities, even the unaffected ones to dress him, combed his hair for him, brushed his teeth for him, fed him, I learned that there was so much more to this person and so much more I could be doing to help him.  By the time the OT was done with the session, the patient was exhausted of course because he had worked so hard.  However, he had a completely different attitude about him.  The OT encouraged him and taught him that he was not useless and he could still do things for himself.  Everyday he did a little more, even began feeding himself with set up and adaptive equipment.  After working with OT, PT and SLP, the patient left the rehab 1 month later.  The morning of his discharge he washed and dressed himself, brushed his hair and teeth and fed himself breakfast with minimal assistance all because of adaptations an occupational therapist made for him. Thats when I knew I absolutely wanted to be an OT.  I wanted to give people their lives back even if it meant doing things a different way.  So yes, I do love OT!!!!  

      OT school wasn’t too bad.  I definitely dedicated 2 years of my life to it.  I could not work and had to sacrifice a lot of time with family and friends.  You will read a lot, you will write tons of papers and study every signle day, but its manageable and you will still have time for yourself if you manage your time well. 

      I do not have any kids but many of my classmates did. 2 people actually gave birth during the semester and were able to work it out.  Many of my classmates actually found out about OT after caring for their child with severe disabilities.  They certainly had a lot on their plates, but again, made it all work.

   I do not make a salary yet but hope to very soon!  Unemployment for OT is negliable. There are so many jobs out there for OT. Columbia was definitely not a cheap school.  I plan on working a full time and per diem job once i pass the nbcot to pay back my loans asap.  The debt doesnt worry me too much as I know i’ll have a job that i love.

Hope this helps!! I can answer any other questions you mihgt have as well!


Post # 3
197 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: March 2014

Hello! My information is second hand and based in Australia but I thought I’d still chime in here in case it’s of use for you. My Mum is an OT. She studied an OT Bachelor degree straight out of high school in the 70’s when the class was really small and OT’s were not that common. It doesn’t require any postgrad study here with different uni systems. She did it because she thought it was all about helping people by doing craft activities 🙂 Obviously a bit different to what she thought she was getting into, but she loves it.

Over the years she has worked doing workers compensation claim assessments (found that difficult and less rewarding), in mainstream hospitals, in a private OT practise and now in a rehabilitation hospital. She most enjoys working with people in their own homes to make them safer and more capable. She did this as a private OT and in her current job, taking people for visits to their house before they are discharged and recommending rails, techniques and equipment to help them live there and be able to look after themselves and do the things they want to do. Most of her frustrations in her job come from the hospital system and cost cutting.

I couldn’t speak for the cost of her course as she studied at a time when the Australian government was paying for all uni courses (lucky!). I know she earns less in a private hospital than if she was in the public hospital system but I don’t know how that compares to the US.

I think she’s found it to be quite a flexible career choice. Ever since she had kids she has been able to get part-time roles without too much trouble but there were always full-time options had she wanted them. The career suits her being a caring, patient and creative person. One of my favourite stories is about an elderly woman who was uninterested in life. None of the staff could get her to cooperate with the assessments or exercises they needed her to do. Mum had noticed she had a full set of makeup packed at the hospital with her and suggested they put on some lippy. She immediately held her head up and was ready to consider what came next. It really is about working with people to consider their life is a holistic way and to enrich their quality of life, not just make them physically healthy.

Post # 4
2 posts

Hi! This is a bit old, but I hope I can be of some use anyway. 

I am an OT student in Australia (so my information may be a bit different to what you expect, I’m not sure). I’m currently in my 3rd year of a 4 year undergrad degree. I’m about to start fulltime clinical placement in the next few weeks, and I am really excited! 

OT is an amazing thing – really allows people to live their life regardless of challenges life has thrown at them. I love that OT is incredibly person-centred, and looks at a client in terms of their own personal context and environments, and doesn’t just define them as their symptoms. 

I have found my degree to be incredibly challenging. If you don’t like to study a lot, I wouldn’t recommend it! But if you are passionate, and sounds like you are, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I found that the actual OT theory wasn’t too bad, but the physiology and anatomy aspects nearly killed me 😛 Looking back, a lot of the problem was my attitude to studying at the time, and if I could redo the subjects now, I think i would do a whole lot better. So yeah, I think if you have a good studying mindset and are prepared to put in the time, the course shouldn’t be too bad (not easy by any means, but not impossible). 

I don’t have a salary yet either, but I am definitely confident of finding a job once I graduate. OTs are highly in demand in Australia, and the field is so incredibly versatile that it can be adapted to fit a whole lot of job descriptions. 

I wish you all the best in your career!! Good luck 🙂

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