Why I Love Being an Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy is a unique profession that lies somewhere between physical therapy and speech therapy. Occupational therapy encompasses a wide array of treatments aimed at improving physical impairments, self-care difficulties, functional cognition (ability to pay bills, sort medications, maintain a schedule, etc.) and visual impairments. With such an expansive territory of treatment options to explore, it’s not often an occupational therapy career feels mundane. But when it comes to choosing a healthcare career, what makes occupational therapy a front runner for students?

I get to be part of an individual’s recovery journey

Probably the strongest reason anybody decides to pursue a healthcare career is because they want to help people. So, what sets occupational therapy apart from other careers? All healthcare providers work to help people get better, but I work to help people regain their independence, and often their dignity, in the face of serious impairment, injury, or disease. I work with people to set goals based on what they need and desire for their life and help them work toward those goals. I get to be their cheerleader and source of empowerment as they try to improve their current situation. I laugh with them, cry with them, and show them kindness and love. I gain job satisfaction in seeing them be able to do something for the first time. Recovery can be a rocky road, but as an occupational therapist the connections you make with your patients are strong, and being a significant player in an individual’s recovery journey is truly an honor.

I get to meet some fascinating people

People are really interesting. Over the course of my years as an occupational therapist I have met veterans, inventors, doctors, authors, missionaries, the list goes on. I love learning about my patients—who they are, where they have traveled, and what they have accomplished. They are amazing. As a seasoned occupational therapist, I recognize that engaging my patients in conversation as we work through exercise and activities is a necessity—people get bored easily and your second job (after helping them improve) is to keep them interested! What better way to do this than to learn about them and ask questions about their life. Often, I feel as though I have learned as much from my patients as they have from me!

Lots of laughter

Rarely will you find a therapy team who is overly serious. Therapists laugh in our work environments daily. No day is ever the same and healthcare can be a difficult environment to work in. Laughter always helps brighten my day. Not only do I laugh with my co-workers, but more importantly I laugh with my patients. We share funny stories, crack up when things go awry, and talk about what movies we’ve seen. Laughter improves an individual’s desire to participate, not to mention makes them feel great, so I try my best to help them laugh a little.

I get the opportunity to be creative

Occupational therapists are often very creative. As a profession that places an emphasis on functional activity, we are often required to design activities and exercises to assist patients in developing the skills necessary to complete desired tasks. In an effort to keep therapy interesting and relevant for my patients, I work hard to provide fresh tasks each session that help them progress. This is challenging, and also ensures that my job stays interesting to me.

It’s an active job

After spending my work days walking around hospitals and constantly moving around, it’s hard to imagine a job sitting behind a desk. occupational therapists only spend a portion of their time sitting and documenting on a computer. I have no trouble “getting my steps in” after a day of work, and work settings such as acute care or inpatient rehabilitation do involve lifting and assisting patients as needed to chairs, beds, etc . There’s something to say for getting your workout in before you actually leave work.

I have the opportunity to pursue specializations

Tired of the same old, same old in your job? As an occupational therapist you are required to attend continuing education classes to maintain your professional license. This offers you the opportunity to narrow down your interests and find an area you feel passionate. Interested in yoga? Take a course on how to include yoga and tai chi in therapy for patients with Parkinson’s Disease. Interested in anatomy? Pursue a specialization in hand therapy. The opportunities here are endless as occupational therapists cover a wide territory ranging from physical difficulties to cognitive and visual difficulties.

Needless to say, occupational therapy is a career choice that doesn’t get boring, and your ability to be creative and think outside of the box in regards to your treatment ideas will make you an awesome therapist.