Essential Skills for an Occupational Therapist

Posted in Career Blog

As an occupational therapist, you will be charged with the task of helping your patients learn or re-learn the skills necessary for performing basic daily functions on their own. As such, each patient is different and no two cases are the same. The following skills will help you better succeed in your career choice and provide the best service possible to your clients.

Practical Creativity

An occupational therapists helps individuals who have been injured or who are recovering from illnesses regain their ability to care for themselves and perform basic tasks. Since the needs of no two patients are the same, you will need to develop a sense of practical creativity so that you can develop treatment plans that fit the patient’s needs in his or her unique situation. For example, if you are helping an individual who has been paralyzed from the waist down due to an injury, you will need to be creative when it comes to helping that individual learn how to get dressed or get in an automobile, but you will also need to be practical and use real-life examples to create a treatment plan.

Responsibility and Professionalism
Since you will likely work with some patients on a long-term basis during your career as an occupational therapist, it can be easy to develop friendships with your clients and genuinely care about their health and well-being. Even so, it is important for you to maintain a certain level of professionalism and responsibility, meaning that all of the decisions you make should be geared toward improving that person’s condition and abilities. While there will be times when you may wish to go beyond the standards of your job to help your patients, especially if their home environment is not conducive to their healing, you should remember to follow the proper channels to help that patient.

Communication Skills

Individuals who have lost the ability to care for themselves on even the most basic levels are often quite emotional. They will experience feelings such as anger, confusion, guilt and many others. You will need to be able to effectively communicate your treatment plan ideas to your patients as well as your reasoning behind them in order for them to feel empowered in their own care. You will also be expected to work closely with the patient’s team of healthcare providers—including doctors and specialists—in order to ensure that your treatment ideas are consistent with those prescribed by these physicians.

Compassion and Empathy

Patients who need occupational therapy have almost certainly experienced some sort of trauma in their lives. They have likely dealt with dozens of doctors and plenty of troubles at home, at work and in their personal relationships. You will need to remain compassionate and empathetic with your patients despite their troubles, and you will need to provide support to these individuals during the times when they simply do not want to continue their therapy due to stress or depression. These skills will also enable you to take necessary measures if you feel that your patients could benefit from mental evaluations or counseling.

You will fill several roles as an occupational therapist, and all of the skills listed here, when paired with keen observation, will help you make the best decisions possible when it comes to caring for your patients.

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