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Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy (OT) is an Allied Health Profession that involves the therapeutic use of everyday activities, or occupations, to treat the physical, mental, developmental, and emotional ailments that impact a patient’s ability to perform day-to-day tasks.

Occupational therapy differs from other healthcare professions like physical therapy or nursing in its focus on treating the whole patient, rather than treating a particular injury, ailment, or disability. For example, after a surgery a nurse might assist a patient with pain management, dressing changes, and care during recovery. An occupational therapist, on the other hand, will assess the activities that are important to the patient and teach them how to become independent again following the surgery, so that they can resume the daily life that defines who they are.

This role may involve:

Accidents, illness, disability, mental health issues and ageing affect millions of people, making it harder for them to do everyday things, along with activities they enjoy. As an occupational therapist, you’ll help all kinds of people overcome all kinds of challenges, so they can live as fully and independently as possible. This might involve learning new ways to do things, or making changes to their environment to make things easier.

In the role, you could help:

  • someone adapt to life after major surgery.
  • people with mental illnesses or learning disabilities with everyday activities such as work or volunteering.
  • elderly people stay in their own homes by providing adaptations such as level access showers or stair lifts.

You’ll find solutions to everyday problems, such as:

  • advising on how to approach a task differently.
  • using equipment or assistive technology.
  • adapting the living or working environment.
  • finding strategies to meet your patient’s goals.

As well as working with individual patients and their families, you could also work with groups, or as part of a multidisciplinary team in hospitals, clinics, charities, prisons and social services departments.

Entry requirements and skills:

To become an occupational therapist, you’ll need a degree in occupational therapy, which usually takes three years full time or up to six years part time. In postgraduate studies, it’s possible to gain a Masters degree in one to two years. Once you’ve successfully completed your degree, you’ll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before you can start practising. The other option is to apply for an apprenticeship degree.

Entry requirements for an undergraduate course are typically:

  • two or three A levels
  • five GCSEs (grades 9-4/A-C), including science.

Or equivalent qualifications:

  •  a BTEC, HND or HNC, including biological science
  • a relevant NVQ
  • a science-based access course
  • equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications.

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