For occupational therapists (OTs), a typical day at the office is anything but. In fact depending on the day, “the office” can be anything from a school to a clinic to a simulated kitchen.
From chemotherapy patients to children with autism, occupational therapists treat diverse patients with wide-ranging needs. Each day brings new challenges—and that’s often what they enjoy most.
Small skills, big impact
At the heart of occupational therapy lies one goal: improved quality of life.
OTs work with patients who have disabilities, diseases or injuries to help them gain or regain everyday life skills. Shopping for groceries, getting in and out of the car, taking a shower, walking around the neighborhood—all of these little events are often taken for granted until they become difficult. OTs help people of all ages return to these valuable daily activities and reclaim their quality of life.
“Even though someone may be medically stable and maybe has resumed some amount of normal activity, they may not be living their life the way that they want to be,” says Liz Larson, Fairview occupational therapist. “OTs give patients the opportunity to more fully resume meaningful activity.”
Occupational therapy treatment areas often feature simulated kitchens or non-running but full-sized cars, providing patients with a valuable opportunity to hone their abilities in a realistic setting.
Beyond the physical
Occupational therapists treat a wide range of patients, including people recovering from strokes, undergoing chemotherapy, struggling with low vision or in need of hand therapy. They also work with children with sensory integration challenges, commonly seen in conditions like autism.
For many of these patients, their mental, emotional or social well-being has been impacted just as much as their physical health.
“OTs are trained to look at the ‘big picture’ of a person’s function,” says Liz. “A patient may have very good mobility, but their cognition might be quite impaired. Or a patient may have adequate physical and cognitive function, but their anxiety might be limiting their success.”
Because each patient’s challenges and goals can vary, OTs draw on creativity and critical thinking to develop individualized care plans.
“I don’t think most people realize how much practical problem-solving goes into successfully providing treatment,” says Liz. “Whether you are working on a specific skill, training a family member in how to safely and effectively care for a patient at home, or introducing a piece of adaptive equipment, it is going to be a new challenge each time. OTs are known for their creativity!”
Fairview’s 100 core occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants serve patients in multiple locations throughout the state. To learn more, visit Fairview’s website.