Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists work with people who have disabilities, and their carers, who are having difficulties with personal, domestic, work and leisure activities.  They see children and adults of all ages with a multitude of physical, mental health & social problems.

They complete a functional assessment of the disabled person and their carer(s) to establish what is required to maximise independence and reduce risk.  This may include provision of simple and/or specialist equipment, or adaptations to the property, or advise on rehousing.  Advice can also be given on compensatory techniques to enable the client to cope with perceptual, cognitive, sensory and mobility deficits.  Occupational Therapists are registered by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).  The qualifying degree allows the practitioner to work holistically encompassing physical, social and psychological aspects of disability.  They have specialist knowledge on housing design and advise housing departments on mobility and adapted housing.

Work Environment
Occupational therapists are usually based in a social services office in an occupational therapy or social work team.  They visit people at home, work, school or day centres. They work closely with other professionals in health centres, hospitals, other authority offices and the voluntary sector.

Daily Activities
Community Occupational Therapists visit people with disabilities and their carers to assess their functional needs for independence and care at home. There is a substantial amount of report writing to comply with legal requirements and liaison with other bodies including surveyors, manufacturers, disability organisations and people working in Health Trusts. Case conferences and multi-disciplinary meetings are common place.  

Occupational Therapists offer advice & guidance to providers of care in the community to allow them to work within local & national health & safety guidelines, ensuring their staff work in a safe environment.  They organise their own diaries and prioritise their workload of complex and highly complex cases but do have regular supervision from a senior occupational therapist. When the service has been satisfactorily completed, the therapist would evaluate the outcome and record any remaining risks.  Most community occupational therapy services have a duty system and where this occurs, all occupational therapists would contribute to the rota.  Some development work for the Service would be undertaken by the occupational therapists such as liaison with housing, wheelchair services and update and evaluation of equipment issued. In-service and professional training is on going.

Skills & Interests
Community Occupational Therapy involves communicating with vulnerable people about personal issues, all aspects and activities of their lives.  Therefore OTs must have the interest and ability to create rapport easily with the general public.  They need to show empathy and be an effective listener but be able to maintain professional objectivity to make a thorough assessment.  They need to have good organising skills, the ability to take on responsibility and problem solve.  An interest in disability issues and relevant legislation would be expected.

Entry Requirements
The professional qualification required is a degree in Occupational Therapy.  This can either be a three year undergraduate or a two year postgraduate course, more details are available from the College of Occupational Therapists.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
Opportunities for progression to senior occupational therapist's posts including team manager exist.  Some occupational therapist's advance further to more senior management in social service departments, e.g. Physical Disability Services or Commissioning and Policy work.

Further Information & Services
British Association of Occupational Therapists & College of Occupational Therapists www.cot.co.uk
Community Service Volunteers www.csv.org.uk/socialhealthcare
Health & Care Professions Council www.hpc-uk.org
NHS Careers http://www.nhscareers.nhs.uk/explore-by-career/allied-health-professions/careers-in-the-allied-health-professions/occupational-therapist/

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales (www.careerswales.com/) or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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