Posted on 04/03/2019

What does it take to be an occupational therapist?

What does it take to be an occupational therapist?

This National Career’s Week, we’re speaking to our team of occupational therapists to find out what makes occupational therapy such a rewarding career.

NRS Healthcare has worked with occupational therapists (OTs) for decades. As a business, we’ve been around since 1947, when we made leather craft activities that occupational therapists used with wounded WW2 soldiers, to help improve the function of their hands and legs. Since that time, we’ve developed into a multi-division healthcare company, working with occupational therapists daily in our community equipment service division, where we support local authorities and the NHS in providing daily living aids to people who are rehabilitating or who need equipment to help them with everyday tasks. We design and develop products that occupational therapists tell us are needed to make their clients’ and carers’ lives easier, and our growing clinical team provides contracted occupational therapy services to local authorities and the NHS.

There are around 48,000 occupational therapists improving people’s lives across the UK, but what exactly do they do? What does it take to be an occupational therapist, who do they help and how do they support their clients?

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy empowers people to overcome barriers that may be preventing them from doing all the activities they need or want to do for their independence or wellbeing.

Occupational therapists work with people from all walks of life, who may have endured illness or injury, have mental health problems, physical disabilities or learning disabilities, or who may be experiencing difficulties as a result of getting older.

The goal of occupational therapy is always to support a person to live independently and feel that they are really living their lives, not just existing in the world. Occupational therapists look at the way their client is undertaking activities and try to understand the reasons they are finding things difficult or avoiding doing them, before considering the possible solutions. Occupational therapists believe that people of all ages should feel they have roles in society and should be given the support to enjoy these roles and their daily lives.

Depending on the area an occupational therapist works in, he or she may need to provide solutions to support a person with their:

  • Mobility
  • Self-care
  • Money management
  • Employment
  • Leisure
  • Household activities
  • Hobbies
  • Social activities/social contact
  • Self-confidence
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Productivity
  • Family life

Occupational therapists who work with people who are older, have mobility issues, health conditions or a disability, may also look at the daily living aids that may help the client with getting around, preparing their own food and drinks, using the toilet and bathroom, reducing the risk of falls, and other household activities.

Find out more about Occupational Therapy.

What do NRS Healthcare OTs do?

NRS Healthcare has a team of over 55 members clinical staff, including mostly occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants working within our service centres across the country or our head office in Leicestershire. Our OTs provide product advice to the public and healthcare professionals, and support many teams across the business with expert advice on equipment design and functionality. NRS Healthcare are hired by local authorities to manage and administer or support the occupational therapy assessment service in their local area, or to take on special projects that require their expertise in daily living aids and community equipment, often helping to save the council and NHS money as well as ensuring client’s needs are met. We are currently recruiting more occupational therapists and OT assistants in many areas of the country and our clinical services.

What’s it like being an occupational therapist?

Our Clinical Services Lead, Rachel has been an occupational therapist for 24 years and told us all about how she got into the profession, and what she loves about it.

“In my current role I love knowing that the products and services we supply make a real difference to the people who receive them. I also love the fact that through our processes and efficiencies we can really make a difference to the health and social care budgets whilst not compromising on quality. I also think that as OT’s we can really contribute to a new emerging role where our value can be seen in a commercial organisation and we can make a difference to the company and to our customers.

“Learning on the job is so important, as is having a great mentor – my best learning has come, and continues to come, from other people who are passionate and brilliant at their jobs. I have also learnt lots from the people who use our services – other healthcare professionals and, in my current role, from operational teams, manufacturers and suppliers who really know their markets. You never stop learning in this job.

“Anyone wanting to be an occupational therapist, I would say ‘go for it!’ It’s a brilliant, varied career with huge opportunities if you are willing to work hard and remain passionate about the people you provide services for. Go to a great university with up to date lecturers who understand the emerging roles and opportunities for OT’s. Also choose your placements well and learn as much as you can on them. Any work or volunteering you can do outside of college with older / disabled people and their families will really make a difference too. I spent the summer before college working as a nanny for a girl with tuberous sclerosis and it was a real eye opener for me.”

How can I get into Occupational Therapy?

To become an occupational therapist, most people undertake a degree course (3 or 4 years’ full time), which usually requires 2-3 A levels, 5 GCSEs, or alternative qualifications to the same level, but there are other routes into the profession, such as apprenticeships.

To become an occupational therapist assistant or support worker, you do not necessarily need a degree although some employers may ask for health and social care related qualifications.

If you are a young person exploring career options, you may wish to visit these websites for more advice and information:

Youth Employment

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