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Posted at: Dec 6, 2017, 12:41 AM; last updated: Dec 6, 2017, 2:07 AM (IST)CAREER COMPASS: OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY

Harbingers of a better life

Occupational therapy services include:

  • Customised treatment programmes to improve one's ability to perform daily activities
  • Comprehensive home and job site evaluations with adaptation recommendations
  • Performance skills assessments and treatment
  • Adaptive equipment recommendations and usage training
  • Guidance to family members and caregivers.
Harbingers of a better life

Usha Albuquerque

With the advancement of healthcare, people are working and living a longer life. However, from time to time, they also require help to recover from ailments and improve the quality of life. This support becomes even more important in case of a disability — mental or physical. Occupational therapists are professionals who help individuals do what they want and need to do, and is therefore one career that is increasingly in demand. 

Occupational therapy is a medical service that treats individuals with mental or physical disabilities or illness, to handle their disabilities, restore its functioning and to perform whatever normal activities are possible. Manifold increase in number of medical facilities, hospitals, healthcare centres, polyclinics, nursing homes and diagnostic centres has also led to growing demand for healthcare-related proficiencies. Experts like occupational therapists assist the doctor in the treatment, cure and care of patients. 

Those suffering from some form of physical disability or have been incapacitated in some way are often unable to find appropriate treatment and rehabilitation facilities once the medical diagnosis and hospitalisation is over. In this case, occupational therapists help the physically and mentally challenged to manage themselves independently. This covers a wide range of activities, concerned with the physical, psychological, social and economic well-being of the patients.

Work profile

Occupational therapists tend to people who have injured themselves and to those also who suffer from mental issues. They help patients suffering from chronic conditions such as stroke, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and so on. Together with other members of the healthcare sector, they assess problems of patients and devise programmes of treatment to help them regain as much normalcy and independence possible. For this, patients are trained or activities are designed to help them recover faster.

Occupational therapists often consult doctors regarding the degree of recovery the patient is expected to achieve. While working with the physically challenged persons, they require the cooperation of physiotherapists and when working with the mentally challenged patients, they require the cooperation from psychologists or psychiatrists. Thereafter, occupational therapists plan the treatment strategy to suit individual requirements of patients, taking into account their physical, social, economic and psychological circumstances.

Understand the domain

The term occupational therapy refers to helping restore the patient's functional abilities such as sensory motor, cognitive, and psychological components required to perform daily chores, such as grooming, dressing, food preparation and eating, communication and mobility, as well as work activities like basic domestic tasks. 

Occupational therapists use various methods in the treatment of their patients. The treatment might involve physical exercises, educational, vocational and leisure activities. Apart from helping in the treatment of the mentally challenged and those with physical disabilities, occupational therapists also provide assistance in the treatment of patients suffering from tuberculosis, rheumatism, blood pressure and accident victims.

Art, craft, music and recreation also help in rehabilitation of the patients. Activities like handicrafts, manual and industrial art, weaving, games and clay modelling and other activities of recreations are also encouraged. These activities strengthen the weak muscles and increase the limited range of joint action to help coordinate movements.

Qualification required

You should have passed Class XII with a background in science (physics, chemistry and biology) to be eligible for the courses in occupational therapy. These include degree and diploma courses like B.Sc. Occupational Therapy, Bachelor of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapist Diploma.

A few institutions also carry out an admission test and the selection of candidates is done on the basis of their performance in this examination.

Graduation: Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (B.O. Th)/ BOT is a four-and-a-half year programme, which  includes six months of internship.

Occupational therapy education programmes in India are recognised by All India Occupational Therapist's Association (AIOTA) and World Federation Of Occupational Therapist's (WFOT). 

The syllabus includes a foundation course in research methodology, besides an amalgamation of subjects like psychology, orthopaedics, psychiatry, pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, surgery combined with ergonomics and occupational therapy. After the completion of the four-year course, you need to undergo six months of full-time clinically oriented training internship programme. After this you can start working as a professional or carry on with your PG diploma, Master's and Doctorate.

Post Graduation: Master of Occupational Therapy (M.O.Th)/ MOT is usually a two-or-three-year course.  

Eligibility: After graduation, PG entrance.

Job prospects

Occupational therapists work in tandem with other medical specialists in hospitals, polyclinics, rehabilitation centres, psychiatric institutions, special schools, community mental-health centres, residential-care facilities, old-age homes, adult daycare programmes, sports teams etc. Other avenues include working with social work organisations, NGOs, and educational institutions, especially those for children with disabilities. They can also work in private clinics, child development centres and be a part of teaching institutions.

Occupational therapy offers a variety of employment opportunities in :

  • Multi-specialty hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centres
  • Non Governmental Organisations
  • Industry for rehabilitation of injured workers
  • Schools, teaching institutions
  • Private practice/private clinics
  • Geriatric homes/old-age homes
  • Hospitals for mentally challenged
  • Community health centres
  • Occupational health centres.
Getting better with technology 

Recent advancements in technology have given occupational therapists tools for working with patients, particularly those with cognitive issues. The technological advances have allowed for more specific diagnostic techniques that have lead to specific therapies. This also means improved splinting techniques, improved prosthetics, more research into various adaptation aids and distinctly developed therapies. 

Some practitioners are also using gaming devices, such as the Nintendo Wii, to provide rehabilitative activities. There are several memory and sequencing applications for the iPad and the iPod Touch that are useful for working with patients, especially in the realm of cognitive training. There are also virtual reality technologies, which allow patients to participate in simulations of real-life activities. These tools give occupational therapists more opportunities for addressing cognitive deficiencies. As advances in technology continue, one can see that occupational therapy practitioners will create innovative ways to use new technology in their practice.

This is the right time for those looking for a career in occupational therapy. It also offers job satisfaction, since it involves relieving patients from pain and helping them recover from specific physical ailments. 

Skills needed

Besides a scientific bent of mind, an occupational therapist needs to have:

  • Genuine interest in people and health 
  • Sympathetic, yet objective approach towards patients 
  • Great reserves of patience, perseverance and a calm temperament 
  • Good communication skills 
  • Accurate judgement
  • Precision and meticulous record-keeping ability
  • Ability to infuse self confidence in patients.

INSTITUTE WATCH:

  • All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University - www.ggsipu.nic.in
  • Pt. Deendayal Upadhyaya Institute for Physically Handicapped, Delhi (Affiliated to Delhi University) www.iphnewdelhi.in
  • Christian Medical College, Vellore
  • College of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal
  • G.S. Seth Medical College, Mumbai
  • Govt. Medical College, Chennai
  • National Institute for the Orthopaedically Handicapped, Kolkata, West Bengal
  • IMS University, Jaipur

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