May 27, 2022

What are OTAs and What Do They Do?

By B&SC Blog Team

What are OTAs and What Do They Do?

If you are looking for a career in the healthcare field but are undecided about what the various job titles and occupations are, you may find a career as an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) is right for you.

Not only are there the intrinsic rewards of helping people, but the job outlook is very high-greater, in fact, than many other occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, 17,900 more OTAs will be needed in the next decade.

At Bryant & Stratton College, we offer an Occupational Therapy Assistant associate degree program that prepares students for success in this growing field, helping them with the skills and insights needed to gain licensure as an OTA. You may still be wondering, “What exactly is an occupational therapy assistant? What does the occupation entail? And how do I become one?” Discover answers to these questions and more below.

What is an OTA?

An occupational therapist assistant helps patients who need help improving activities of daily living (ADL). These activities include:

? Personal hygiene. This includes tasks such as bathing, brushing teeth, and taking care of hair and nails.

? Continence management. The physical and mental ability to properly use the bathroom.

? Dressing. This includes the ability to select and wear the proper clothes for different occasions and to learn or relearn how to dress oneself without assistance, if possible.

? Feeding. Patients may need assistance in learning how to feed themselves, cutting their own food, using a knife and fork, and more.

? Ambulating. A person may need to learn or relearn how to walk independently or how to adapt to devices designed to assist with this procedure. OTAs will help these people overcome their physical challenges, increase their mobility, and promote independence by re-teaching them how to walk or how to use a device such as a wheelchair.

Patients may have been injured in an accident, suffered from a traumatic medical condition, or have developmental or intellectual delays and need help adapting to the challenges of coping with life in general, their jobs, or school.

An OTA collaborates with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to develop care plans focused on improving coordination, cognitive abilities, and visual skills. The goal is to help patients perform tasks with the highest degree of independence possible. OTA helps patients develop the skills they need to survive in the world.

What Does an OTA Do?

OTAs work in various healthcare environments. They work with people at every level of disability. Patients may need short-term intensive therapy to recover basic skills after an injury or medical event. They may even need long-term therapy to learn new ways to cope after a catastrophic spinal cord injury leading to paralysis.

OTAs work with patients of all ages from babies to the elderly. The main goal is to work with patients to overcome personal daily challenges and live independent lives. This could involve, for example, helping an injured worker relearn skills or learn new skills in order to adapt to the loss of motor functions. They also assist people with learning disabilities to be as independent as possible.

An OTA will monitor patients to be sure they are doing the activities designed for them in the patient care plan and that the patient is doing those activities correctly. The OTA meets frequently with the OT to discuss patient progress so that care plans can be evaluated and modified.

Areas of Practice for OTAs

Qualified OTAs have a number of areas of practice to choose from. Examples of these areas include:

Working with children. An OTA helps children of all ages who have physical and cognitive developmental delays to improve motor skills and sensory processing. This may include leading children with developmental disabilities in play activities designed to help with coordination and socialization. It may also involve working with children on the autism spectrum to adapt to their own cognitive and sensory issues.

Working with the aging population. An OTA assists elderly patients who suffer from cognitive and physical declines to learn how to cope and adapt to new ways of doing activities of daily living. The patient may have personality changes or physical impairments that the OTA can address along with helping families understand the best ways to help a loved one.

Helping patients adapt to health challenges. This may be by helping a person with arthritis learn new ways to complete tasks. Perhaps a patient with Parkinson’s needs help learning how to use devices to make life easier when eating, walking, brushing their teeth, and more.

Working with those who have been injured. Many people who have been in serious accidents are forced to relearn how to do activities of daily living like using a knife and fork at the dinner table to cut their food, brushing their hair, brushing their teeth, and more. The OTA helps them relearn ways to cope or learn new ways to accomplish tasks that previously they didn’t have to think through.

Assist spinal cord injury patients with adaptation. OTAs are needed to work with spinal cord injury patients who have paralysis to learn new ways to use devices and learn how to adapt to the new environment facing them. This may include learning how to use a computer keyboard, a smartphone, and more. Patients may need to learn how to use hand controls so they can drive a car, to learn new ways to work in their own career, or to retrain for a new career. There are tremendous opportunities for OTAs in just this practice area alone.

Primary Places Where OTAs Work

The BLS offers the following OTA work environments:

? 47% work in offices of occupational therapists as well as offices of other therapists.

? 16% work in skilled nursing care facilities.

? 15% work in hospitals (state, local and private).

? 6% work for home healthcare services.

? 4% work for state, local, and private educational services.

Other potential employers can include rehabilitation clinics and day treatment centers.

How Do You Become an OTA?

To become an OTA, you need to:

  1. Earn an associate degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program-this degree program must contain a minimum of 16 hours of field work providing the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.
  2. Take the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) exam-after you pass the exam, you can then use the title Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant.
  3. Apply for a license in the state where you want to work-some states may require a state test.

Start Your OTA Journey Today

If you are looking for a career as an Occupational Therapy Assistant, talk to a counselor at Bryant & Stratton College. Our Occupational Therapy Assistant program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and includes all required classroom courses to meet the requirements for fieldwork, COTA licensing, and other certifications.

In addition to top-notch academics and the latest educational tools, Bryant & Stratton College also helps students with life skills surrounding critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. Our Career LifePrep helps students find internships, tap into the networking power and knowledgebase of instructors, and be equipped to handle professional challenges. Learn more about Bryant & Stratton College today and how we can help you succeed with your career goals.

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