Occupational therapists should continue to a career path with a huge amount of growth over the next few decades as the Baby Boomer generation passes from late middle-age to elderly to very old. Occupational therapists are charged with helping people perform daily tasks that they are having trouble with due to disabling conditions. The disabilities can be either physical or mental. As the tens of millions of Baby Boomer get older and less capable of doing things themselves, occupational therapy will only continue to be more important. And since the bulk of American money is in the hands of this generation, it is only economically feasible to consider that somehow the money will be found to pay therapists.
As an occupational therapist, you may be called upon to assist your patients in a number of therapeutic activities. Physical exercises will help the patient recover some amount of dexterity and motor function. Mental exercises designed to recover cognitive acuity will also be a part of the average day of an occupational therapist. Don’t be surprised to find yourself playing Nintendo Wii games-or, more likely, far more sophisticated Virtual Reality simulated activities similar to Wii games-in the future of this medical field. The world of occupational therapist can extend from quite literally helping the patient to learn how to bend his knee to taking part in more abstract mental exercises to help her in the effort to hold onto her memories or regain problem-solving abilities.
Occupational therapists help those with permanent disabilities as well as those who need only temporary assistance following a disease or accident. Special equipment is often needed to help your patients and you will likely face a permanent status of needing to learn new things. This makes occupational therapy a pretty decent career objective for those who like learning new things and want to face something different over the course of their career rather than looking forward to almost ritualistically mechanistic repetition of daily events.
A particularly specialty for occupational therapy is helping patients to get back to work. In addition to helping with mental and physical challenges, this job description extends outward to include duties like evaluating the work environment to determine therapeutic needs and charting the client’s progress once they do get back to work. The concept of the occupational therapist as someone in the solarium or fitness room of a hospital urging their patient to pull on that rubber band one more time has never been more outdated. Occupational therapists are helping to design software, exercise equipment and even office environment. Those who work with children may be called upon to work closely with school administrators or even to serve on a curriculum committee. Clearly, occupational therapy has the potential to be a very exciting career for the ambitious individual looking to make a real difference in the daily lives of Americans.
The work week for an occupational therapist is a standard 40-hour, but don’t be surprised to find yourself exceeding that and without extra pay for your efforts. You may work in a hospital or a school or for a company or at a clinic. You may even find yourself working for one exclusive client and don’t worry because you can be sure that client is wealthy if this becomes the case. If you work in a hospital setting in the fitness room environment, the work can be come quite stressful. The room can get noisy and is populated with people who need help doing the simplest thing. The pressure can get to some people and it may be at this point that you decide occupational therapy isn’t for you. Or, more likely, the vision of people actually getting real help may be inspirational to you and you may become a part time political activist who gets to go to Congress and ask them why they are sending billions to fight political wars halfway across the globe rather than spending it helping out their own citizens.
The reduction in health care budgets may offset the growth caused by the aging Baby Boomer generation, but that should prove to be a temporary thing that lasts only until that generation gets old enough that they can’t take care of themselves. At that point, expect to see a small flood of money in this particular region of the health care gulag.