During my day time work hours, I am an Occupational Therapist at our local hospital, Bristol Regional Medical Center. April is the designated month to strut our stuff and attempt to inform people, including medical personnel, what it is we actually do.
When I was an OT student those many decades ago, we frequently were asked to define the profession. This, it turned out was not an exercise designed to inculcate college students new to the field, but training for the long term.
In 1976 our national professional board defined the profession as such:
"The therapeutic use of work, self-care, and play activities to increase development and prevent disability. It may include adaptation of task or environment to achieve maximum independence and enhance the quality of life"
Bet the definition cleared it right up, didn't it. Not. About the most universal statement I can make about succinct definitions of occupational therapy is that no good one exists.
The field of occupational therapy got it's name at the beginning of the previous century and the meaning of words evolve over time. The field is very broad as it addresses performance deficits in multiple arenas. We could be involved in anything from an overuse syndrome of a professional musician (de Quervain's syndrome perhaps) to setting up a blow switch on the Intensive Care Unit so that a new quadriplegic can summon nursing staff without the use of his/her hands.
The range of settings and is wide and varied.
We work in hospitals, nursing homes, schools systems, home health agencies, mental health settings and the community. It's too wide a field to shoe horn into a few sentences.
Here I am clowning around to the amusement of fellow staff members
At Bristol Regional, a 340-bed regional hospital, there are 10 occupational therapists with 2 secretaries. We have 4 therapists in the outpatient Hand Center, three of which are CHTs (Certified Hand Therapists) with the 4th training for the designation. To become a CHT requires a degree in occupational or physical therapy for starters. Next you need to work and study hand therapy for 5 years and 5000 hours at a minimum. Lastly you must pass a 200 question, 4 hour board test. Whew!
Three of our therapists work acute care in the hospital. One specializes in recovery from joint replacement surgery. Another recently got certification in lymphedema management. The third and our only male therapist splits his time between outpatient pediatric services and acute care.
Two of the therapists do prn work or fill-in for vacations and the like, one in acute care and one in the outpatient neuro-rehab program.
The outpatient neuro-rehab program is where I spend my days, helping folks that have experienced a stroke or traumatic brain injury return to as normal living and independence as possible. A few specialty certifications help me provide high quality service. It is work that is rewarding in many ways.