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Become an Occupational Therapist

The desire to help is what usually motivates people to become an occupational therapist. However, while your knowledge, expertise, and training received will contribute to how you create effective treatment programmes for patients… the ultimate goal of your entire job is to promote independent living.

Proving people with the ability to maintain mobility for a longer period of time, on their own wherever possible.

Patients will be diverse and include people of all ages. Some may require your support after a long-term disability diagnosis, such as motor neurons disease, whereas others it may be that they’ve reduced mobility functions after a car accident.

Your job is to support and assist people back on their full mobility by creating tailored treatment programs designed to enable that concept to become their reality. It’s the part of the job where you really do make a difference in peoples’ lives.

In many of the cases you’ll be working, your patients can find themselves in a great deal of pain. That pain will de-motivate them, so it’s crucial that you’re able to acknowledge the pain aspects patients are experiencing, provide praise and encouragement, and when necessary – adapt the treatment program in accordance with individual patient capabilities.

You will be working as part of a larger team of professionals, working to promote independent living, which can include social services, nurses, families, carers, including family and friends caring for someone, and those working in residential nursing homes.

Communication skills both written and verbal will be essential to maintain accurate records of patient progress, so that a unified team of support workers can all work together in the best interest of the patient.

In some situations, you can find yourself working with a patient with a long-term illness affecting their mobility, where it’s perhaps not possible to enable them to walk. In this case; you’ll be working with them in a supportive role to boost their positivity and contribute to helping them manage their conditions, rather than overcome an obstacle.

At any given time, you will have multiple case-loads, and you’ll need to be able to identify with each patient on an individual basis, with an understanding of their exact requirements.
Some cases could you see working with someone on a long-term basis, whereas others may only require a few sessions with you.

For longer-term patients under your care, you can find the job emotionally challenging, but the difference in cases can help towards balancing that aspect, ensuring you have continued job satisfaction. That will help get through the emotionally challenging aspects of the job.

The career will have emotional highs and lows, and you have to understand the limitations on the human body, so you can provide the highest in patient care at all times.

That requires sufficient training to truly understand, design, and execute treatment plans in the best interests of those under your care.

Occupational Therapist Training

What training do you need to become an occupational therapist?

There are only 32 universities accredited by the HCPC to provide Occupational Therapist training courses. Entry requirements for each will differ between universities, but you can expect that you’ll be required to display a sufficient knowledge of what an OT does, the services they provide, industries they work within, and the contributions they make to sustain independent living.

Pre-registration courses can include any health related degrees, or certifications working with disadvantaged patients. Those can be used to support your application, although different universities will have different eligibility criteria.

At minimum, you’ll need to obtain a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours Degree in Occupational Therapy to meet HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) registration requirements.

To gain entry, you should have five GCSEs, with grades no lower than a C and include Maths, English, and a science related subject. Some universities prefer biology.

Higher National Certificates and Diplomas in health related fields can also count towards entry requirements.

Studying full-time towards a BSc Honours Degree takes three years to complete, with part-time studies taking upwards of four years.

For those who already work in the health care profession in any capacity, with the support of your employer, it’s possible to take the BSc Hons in Occupational Therapy as an in-service course, which will require your employer to support your studying. Academic studies will usually require two days per week at university when studying in-service.

Whichever way you choose to study, you can expect a combination of academic studies at university and practical work experience too.

Around 1’000 hours is expected in practical implementation of the skills you learn at university, which will cover the following:

  • Biological Science
  • Environmental Adaptations
  • Behavioural Science
  • Management
  • Leadership
  • Therapeutic Interventions
  • Research
  • General knowledge on Occupational Therapy

Following graduation with a BSc Hons in Occupational Therapy, there is the option to further your training to include a post-graduate course studying towards an MSc (Masters of Science) in Occupational Therapy, or a post-grad Diploma. An MSc will take a further two years to complete studying full-time.

Find out more about occupational therapist training

Occupational Therapist Jobs

What job opportunities are available for occupational therapists?

Jobs are far from limited to the National Health Service. Within the NHS Trust, you can find OT jobs working in doctors’ surgeries, hospitals, and nursing homes.

In the public sector, jobs could be working within a prison environment, housing departments with your local council, social services, schools, universities, colleges, as well as within job centres where you help people back into employment.

In the private sector, jobs could see you working with charity organisations, private housing associations, residential homes, property development firms, and nursing homes.

There’s certainly no shortage of areas to find jobs as a registered professional occupational therapist, but there is a skills shortage within the public and private sector, as well as charities in need of assistance to provide support to their members.

Find out more about occupational therapist jobs

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