Occupational Therapist

Community and Health

Diversional Therapist

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Helping or advisingAnalytic or ScientificSkill Level 5

Occupational therapists assess and treat people who, due to illness, injury or circumstance, are limited in their ability to undertake everyday activities. They assist people to regain lost functions, develop their Future Growth Strong abilities and social skills, as well as maintain and promote independence in their everyday lives to enhance health and wellbeing.

Occupational therapists assist people with physical or mental health issues in their working, home and social lives. They work with people of all ages and walks to life, assessing their physical, emotional and social needs, and enabling them to develop practical everyday skills as well as skills that will help them to participate in the community. They may also arrange assistive technologies and modify their client's home and work environments to minimise disruptions to their everyday lives. They also liaise with a range of other healthcare professionals, family members, caregivers and volunteers in realising a holistic approach to their work.


ANZSCO description: Assesses functional limitations of people resulting from illnesses and disabilities, and provides therapy to enable people to perform their daily activities and occupations. Registration or licensing may be required.

Alternative names: OTs

Specialisations: Aged Care Occupational Therapist, Disability Occupational Therapist, General Medicine Occupational Therapist, Health Promotion Officer, Occupational Health Officer, Paediatric Therapist, Psychiatric Occupational Therapist, Vocational Rehabilitation Officer Strengthening

  • Aged care - providing programmes and equipment for people with medical and social problems associated with ageing.

  • Disabilities - working with people who have an intellectual, physical or sensory disability through planned activity programmes over long periods of time.

  • General medicine - working in hospitals or private practice to assess and treat individuals with physically disabling diseases or injuries.

  • Occupational health - assessing the safety of work environments and injured workers, providing rehabilitation and advice about adaptations for their return to the workplace.

  • Health promotion - assisting people who want to achieve a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

  • Paediatrics - working in hospitals, private practices or schools to assess and treat children with disabilities, developmental delays or learning difficulties.

  • Psychiatry - assessing and treating individuals with mental illness and behavioural disorders through programmes involving such methods as stress management.

  • Vocational rehabilitation - assisting injured workers to return to work.

 

Knowledge, skills and attributes

An occupational therapist needs:

  • to enjoy helping and working with peoplePatient in wheelchair

  • a friendly, caring and helpful nature

  • organisational and motivational skills

  • problem-solving and lateral thinking skills

  • patience, tolerance and flexibility

  • strong communication skills

Duties and Tasks

Occupational therapists may perform the following tasks:

  • conduct tests to assess functional, emotional, psychological, developmental and physical capabilities

  • plan and direct specific therapeutic programmes for individuals using recreational, remedial, social, educational or vocational (job-related) activities

  • select and design activities that improve an affected movement or function and help individuals to regain personal care skills, such as eating and dressing

  • assist people to gain or regain skills in social, leisure and work environments through graded individual or group therapy and activity programmes

  • monitor the progress of individuals and assist with the coordination of an appropriate health team

  • assist children with disabilities to integrate into education programmes in schools

  • assess the ability of injured workers to return to their usual employment or perform alternative duties

  • design and modify the everyday environment of clients to allow for better access and independence

  • advise on the use of specialised equipment, such as home modifications, adapted kitchen utensils, wheelchairs and other assistive technologies that help people within their environment

  • assess the need for, develop and run health education programmes

  • act as consultants to industry and government organisations

  • undertake research

  • teach in academic institutions, generally at tertiary level

  • assist with policy development for health and other areas.

patientWorking conditions

Occupational therapists may work in a range of settings including hospitals, general practices, community health facilities, aged care facilities, private businesses, or in the workplaces and homes of their clients. They may work as part of a larger organisation or may work independently. They usually work regular hours, but may do shift work or work outside regular business hours to see clients at times that are more convenient for them. They may work in groups or one-on-one with their clients. They may work with clients who display erratic behaviour or suffer from emotional, intellectual or physical disabilities, and their work can be stressful at times.


Tools and technologies

Occupational therapists use a range of assessment tools to establish the needs of their clients. They also help their clients to use specialised mobility equipment including wheelchairs, orthoses and computer-sided communications devices. They may also help their client by teaching them how to use adaptive equipment such as eating and dressing aids.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an occupational therapist you have to complete a degree majoring in occupational therapy.

To work as an occupational therapist in Australia, you must obtain professional registration with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia, and hold a current Working with Children clearance.

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