what does an ota do

What Does an Occupational Therapist Assistant Do?

An exciting job description. A balanced work environment. Great pay. A bright job outlook. A highly respected title in the healthcare field. Not to mention, a rewarding career with the everyday opportunity to improve someone’s quality of life. There are so many reasons to become an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) today.

Occupational therapy assisting is one of the fastest growing healthcare careers, with employment of OTAs projected to grow almost 30 percent in the coming years. It is also one of the fastest tracks you can take into the medical field, requiring only two-or-so years of schooling before you can land a job.

As you may already know, occupational therapist assistants’ main role is to help others. The question you may have is, what exactly does that “help” entail? What does an occupational therapy assistant do on the day-to-day? As a well-known OTA school in Connecticut, Goodwin College covers this all below.

What Does an OTA Do?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapy assistants help patients develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills needed for daily living and working, such as writing or getting dressed each day. OTAs work under Registered Occupational Therapists (OTs), but are still directly involved with patients’ treatment plans. On a daily basis, they work directly with patients – assessing conditions, monitoring progress, and coordinating therapy using a variety of remedial activities.

OTAs work with patients of all ages, in all types of scenarios. As an occupational therapy assistant, you may help patients rehabilitate from an injury, manage chronic illness, or live with a disability. You may work with young children in schools, helping to improve their fine motor skills, or help elderly patients adjust to the natural aging process. Every day is different for the occupational therapy assistant – and that’s why so many love what they do.

The OTA job description will vary place to place, but can involve:

  • Helping patients perform therapeutic activities, such as stretching and other support exercises
  • Encouraging patients to complete activities and tasks as part of their treatment plan
  • Teaching patients how to use special equipment when needed — for example, showing a patient with Parkinson’s disease how to use devices that make eating easier
  • Leading children with developmental disabilities in play activities that promote coordination and socialization – for example, picking up small foods and eating them, building block towers, or matching games with colors and shapes
  • Recording patients’ progress throughout treatment and reporting back to Occupational Therapists
  • Occasionally performing administrative tasks, such as scheduling appointments or helping patients with insurance forms
  • Preparing treatment areas prior to appointments (e.g. setting up therapy equipment for a specific patient) and cleaning treatment areas and equipment between appointments
  • Transporting patients when needed, which may involve supporting patient weight, bending, and lifting
  • Instructing patients, families and other caregivers how to carry out the skills and techniques of the occupational therapy treatment plan

Occupational therapy assistants collaborate with OTs to develop treatment plans for each patient, as well as coordinate on carrying out each plan. Treatment plans are all unique, depending on a patients’ needs and capabilities:

For someone who has been bedridden due to illness or injury, an OTA may coordinate a plan that involves a lot of stretching, and progressive movements from a bed to sitting, standing, or getting into a wheelchair. For someone who injured their hand (and therefore range of motion) working a manual job, an OTA can help them regain lost motor skills. For someone with a learning or emotional disability, an occupational therapy assistant may teach them the skills needed to live more independently.

It is the occupational therapy assistant’s job to ensure that patients are carrying out their activities and therapies correctly. This enables them to properly monitor the progress of each patient. If an OTA is not seeing desired results in a patient, the OT and OTA can then work together to adjust the treatment plan.

Where Can OTAs Work?

Occupational therapy assistants are needed across the healthcare field, in a variety of different clinical settings. Many of Goodwin’s occupational therapy assistant graduates have found OTA careers in:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Assisted Living Facilities
  • Geriatrics
  • Pediatrics
  • Home Healthcare
  • Nursing Homes
  • Alternative Community Settings
  • Rehabilitation Centers

What Do Occupational Therapist Assistants Need to Do to Get a Job?

All occupational therapy assistants today are required to have at least an associate degree from an accredited OTA program. In general, these programs require two years of full-time study and blend classroom and hands-on learning into their curriculums. Most states today, including Connecticut, require OTAs become licensed. Licensure can be earned by passing the NBCOT examination, which will grant you the official title of “Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant” (COTA).

Goodwin College in Connecticut offers a flexible, hands-on learning experience for aspiring OTAs in the state. With classes offered 7 days a week, you can complete your OTA degree in as few as 16-months full-time. Our program will also qualify you to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), which will enable you to become certified in CT. Interested in learning more?

Call 800-889-3282 or visit us online to learn more about earning an OTA degree at Goodwin College.