5 Duties of an Occupational Therapist

Essential members of the allied health care workforce, occupational therapists help patients of all ages to develop, regain and maintain functional skills in the physical, social and emotional areas of their lives. In order to accomplish these diverse responsibilities, all occupational therapists must perform certain duties.

Evaluate Patients

In addition to analyzing a patient’s medical history, occupational therapists test and evaluate their physical and emotional abilities to create realistic rehabilitation goals. Using this plan of action, they select activities that will help the patients to perform work and life-management skills within the limits of their physical and mental abilities. Therapists may help autistic children lessen sensory integration issues. They can also teach older patients how to use medical equipment like wheelchairs and instruct individuals how to perform exercises that alleviate chronic pain. Exercises can also improve attention deficit issues, increase motor skills and enhance cognitive functions.

Facilitate Lifestyle Changes

Therapists also identify habits that can compromise their patients’ health or have the potential to cause an injury or disability. The therapist provides coaching that help patients develop qualities and make the changes necessary to improve their condition. Occupational therapists often work with patients to help them understand the possible risks and guide them toward behaviors that minimize or eliminate the risk. The therapist will work with patients to plan and implement programs as well as social activities to help them learn positive work, school and daily skills that overcome the limits of their physical and emotional challenges.

Collaborate with Other Health Care Professionals

To coordinate therapeutic activities and select appropriate programs that further improve their patients’ well-being, therapists consult with other members of the rehabilitation team, including doctors, chiropractors and nurses, on an ongoing basis. Regularly scheduled discussions enable therapists to educate everyone responsible for the patient’s wellness on the value of occupational therapy. These sessions also provide the opportunity for everyone involved to learn new health care delivery methods so that rehabilitation sessions promote wellness and manage chronic diseases. Encouraging a mutually supportive environment between all team members and therapeutic modalities promotes the best patient outcome.

Plan and Conduct Training

The health care management team may request occupational therapists to provide training and supervision in various therapeutic techniques. These professional therapists are uniquely qualified to demonstrate procedures and explain the objectives to students, nurses and other medical staff members. They develop and participate in programs, discussion and group activities that promote health awareness and prevent physical or mental disabilities in hospitals, private organizations or community settings. In addition to advising organizations on workplace-related health risks, therapists stay abreast of the current policies and treatments. Some therapists conduct research in occupational therapy. They also share this information with other staff members responsible for the patient’s care.

Maintain Records

Documentation of services is required whenever professional services are provided to ensure that there is an accurate record of patient treatment. Occupational therapists must complete and maintain all these necessary records. This applies to all written and electronic forms of documentation. These include patient treatment records, referrals and insurance forms. Therapists also prepare detailed reports regarding their patients’ progress. The paperwork should reflect the nature of the services provided and the clinical rationale behind the therapy session. There should be sufficient information to ensure that the therapy is delivered in a safe and effective manner based on patients’ needs.

Occupational therapists can work in a variety of settings, such as schools, clinics and hospitals. The goal is to improve their patients’ quality of life by enabling them to perform routine daily tasks that allow them to live as independently as possible.