A Day in the Life of an Occupational Therapist

Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of an Occupational Therapist is like?

Let’s take a look at their common work day.

A Day in the Life of an Occupational Therapist

It’s important to note that every Occupational Therapist is different due to factors like workplace and patient type.

In addition to the above possible variations, the way an Occupational Therapist actually practices certainly varies from professional to professional.

And when every patient is different, every day is different. With that in mind, we can look at what a day in the life of an Occupational Therapist might look like.

Morning Schedule for an OT

The first step in every Occupational Therapist’s day is preparation. Before it’s time see any patients, there are a number of things to accomplish:

  • Gather all therapy tools, paperwork, and activities
  • Ensure therapy area is in order and properly stocked
  • Review the day’s patient list and corresponding patient treatment plans
  • Block out your treatment schedule based on patient plans
  • Review and/or prepare instructions based on notes from the previous session
  • Confer with colleagues as necessary on particular cases before the patient arrives

Since many Occupational Therapists begin seeing patients at 8:00 AM, the average time an OT arrives in the office is between 7:00 and 7:30 AM.

As 8:00 rolls around, it is time to start the day’s treatments. Because not every patient is a returning case, Occupational Therapists are frequently meeting patients for the first time each day.

This is especially true in the hospital setting. In these instances, the protocol is different than that of a previously seen patient with a treatment plan already in place.

Let’s look at how a first meeting would go when a patient is being seen for the first time:

  • Take their history and examine the injury / area that will be treated
  • Build a patient chart that will include information from the treating physician, family and caregivers, and any additional medical professionals currently treating the patient
  • Set short- and long-term goals
  • Chart a plan for the patient that includes treatments, the frequency of visits, length of sessions and more
  • Provide therapeutic services

After the initial visit, a new patient therapy session will consist of:

  • Beginning to implement the treatment plan and/or rehab program
  • Teaching the patient a number of exercises they can do at home
  • Going over pain relief techniques as needed

The schedules of Occupational Therapists tend to change based on patients, which lunchtime varies each day. This means that Occupational Therapists also have to become masters in the art of flexibility.

Afternoon Schedule for an OT

With new patient evaluations complete, it’s time to see some returning patients.

And their day ends the same way it began: preparation.

It is important to set aside time every afternoon to finalize patient notes from the day’s treatments and review the coming day’s schedule.

In a hospital setting, you will also likely have a weekly meeting with colleagues to go over patient progress.

Tips for Success as an Occupational Therapist

1. Harness Your Caring Nature

Rely on your creative, adaptable and caring nature. These qualities will ensure you help patients to the fullest extent of your capabilities.

2. Find a Mentor

Take the time to find the right mentor who shares the same treatment style as you. This person can help guide you in your treatment plans!

3. Stay Connected to Learning

Continuing education is an important requirement of course, but make time to research and implement all available therapies within your specialty as they arise.

4. Focus on Each Unique Patient as an Individual

While you may have seen their ailment many times, their need and motivation for therapy will be unique to their lifestyle.

5. Aim for Overall Wellness

Utilize your multidisciplinary colleagues and the patient’s family/caregivers to work towards the common goal of overall wellness.

6. Stay Organized

Spend time at the end of each day noting details in patient charts to ensure you don’t forget anything between treatments.

7. Involve Yourself in Professional Organizations

Like having a mentor, engaging with professional organizations helps you stay sharp. And, the networking is an added bonus.

Do You See Yourself In This Profession?

Does a travel occupational therapy job interest you? Contact us to learn how you can get started.


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