I graduated with my BS in Recreation and Parks Management with a Therapeutic Recreation concentration. I was going to go on the path for Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS), but by my senior year, I realized that this may not be the career for me (for many reasons). I am trying to gather the most info I can before I make any big changes career wise. I am enrolling in the pre-reqs that I need in order to apply for a Fall 2019 start for an OTA program.
I have some questions about the OT field and if anyone would be kind enough to answer that would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you so much! I know those are a lot of questions, but don't feel like you have to answer every question. Any input is better than none.
Hi! I'll take a crack at it :)
1. For me it's documentation. I work in subacute setting where it is expected to do point of service documentation, so trying to balance instructing the client and typing has been a work in progress.
2. When clients discharge to a safe environment having met their goals, AKA clients making progress
3. Average day: chart review and plan treatment focus, schedule times with clients, treatment times vary from 46-71 minutes and I typical see 8 clients per day, finish documentation at end of day.
4. Yes! I love OTA, I wouldn't change anything
5. In the setting I work, I create my own treatment plan. The OTR sets the goals, my treatments each day should be working toward those goals in whichever way I choose (functional of course)
6. I do a lot of waiting. I work with the adult population, they don't move very fast! I've been learning some great patience :) I thought I would work more with modalities as that was a big focus during my program. I've learned some companies encourage it and some don't.
7. I'm constantly having to explain what OT is! I can't believe this profession is 100 years old and people still aren't sure the difference between OT and PT! Im happy to clarify though :)
8. In general, we have clients for 2-4 weeks. So yes, we build relationships with them and their families. Some actually come back to us after their next hospital stay, so I may see the same client 2-3 times in one year.
9. It's as stressful as you let it be! It'll also go up and down, sometimes you'll have complicated cases and the next week maybe you'll have all straight forward cases- but if you work on a good team, it is not that stressful.
10. I wanted to help people but can't handle too much trauma. I'm too creative for PT. and I was not interested in going to school longer than 4 years. OT is perfect for me, I get to help people be as independent as possible and be creative everyday.
11. Get involved with your programs leadership opportunities as well as with AOTA - OT is a small field, if you create a good network you'll be able to reach the stars!
Thanks so much for taking the time to reply! I really appreciate it!
How did you decide upon the subacute rehab setting?
Thanks so much!
Hi Sarah, I am a newly retired OTR, so some of my answers will be more from what I have observed about the COTA life and my life as a school based OTR.
What is the hardest/most challenging part of the job? Time constraints on seeing kids....sometimes having too many in a day, and also keeping up with documentation.
What is the most rewarding/your favorite part of the job? Seeing the kids progress. Developing working cooperative relationships with other therapists and teachers.
What does your average day look like as an OTA? In schools in Wisconsin, seeing kids in several schools in one day is not uncommon. More and more we see kids within the classroom settings, such as coming in during their writing block and working on handwriting during a writing assignment. We may work on sensory self-regulation, so may have a kid doing activities out of the classroom if they need breaks, and designing breaks to be most effective, then carried out by a classroom aide and the child throughout their days. You are always on the run to the next kid....not much free time but very rewarding.
If you could start all over again, would you do it again? Would you change anything? I think for most COTA's I have worked with, the job is a great fit for personal interests and skills match. The variety is stimulating.
How much input does the OTA get in creating of treatment plans? Or how to implement the treatment plans? Is it a collaborative progress with the OT or does the OT decide everything? I have had COTA's write the entire treatment plan and I approve it, or I have written them and the COTA implements. We typically share kids and both see the same kids throughout the month so the OTR keeps on top of the needs. We consult weekly on almost every kid when time allows....a lot is done on the fly or briefly. We type our notes, so I might make a highlighted note to the COTA to carry out, but most consultation is done face to face or on the phone.
What do you do a lot of that you did not think you would do? And vice versa. Behavior management strategies
What surprised you the most about the career? How great the need is in the schools surprised me the most. The ethics challenges of what you feel a child needs v. what we are licensed to provide....so may not be able to give all the treatment you would want....their education is primary so sometimes you have to skimp on developmental progression and just help the child become functional in the school setting. I was surprised that if you get school therapy you may still need outpatient therapy. The two aren't the same.
Do you get to build relationships with the clients as they progress through treatment or is the average client discharged after 1-2 sessions? (I know this will vary, but in general) In schools, I might keep a child one year, or many years, seeing once or twice a week and fading to consultation.
How stressful is the job? The deadlines and paperwork were the most stressful. Problem solving for kids in crisis can be stressful. Very little down time is stressful.
What made you decide on an OTA career? I loved the blend of psychosocial and physical skill development
Any last tips/suggestions/input? I have never regretted being an OT. It is a diverse job that has a lot of benefits.
Thank you so much for your input! I really appreciate you taking the time to go through all my questions!