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Dispelling 5 OTA Career Myths

By March 18, 2024March 25th, 2024Occupational Therapy Assistant

Chances are you’ve heard about an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) before but may not know exactly what this healthcare support role entails. OTAs tend to have a more behind-the-scenes role in the healthcare field when compared to other jobs. Naturally, that creates some myths and misconceptions about what an OTA is and how they contribute to a patient’s well-being.

What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?

First, we should set the record straight on what an OTA is and what duties they are responsible for. OTAs help individuals develop, recover, or improve daily living and working skills. Through exercises, equipment, and other tools, OTAs guide patients in therapeutic activities that enhance areas like:

  • Motor skills
  • Cognitive thinking
  • Mobility
  • Social skills
  • Pain management
  • Emotional regulation
  • Self-care

Myth 1: OTAs Are Just Assistants, Not Professionals

One of the most common misconceptions about OTAs is that they are just “helpers” for the occupational therapists (OT) they work under and that the OT is the one really doing all the work for a patient. This myth stems in part from educational differences, as OTs require a master’s degree to practice, while an OTA only needs a two-year associate degree.

The Truth:
OTA’s have an active, very hands-on role with patients. Supervising OTs may assess patients and create care plans, but it’s up to the OTA to implement treatment in ways that work for the patient. Since OTAs work very closely with patients, they can adapt approaches or applications in treatment plans to better serve a patient’s needs or abilities.

Despite being different degrees, both OTs and OTAs undergo very similar education and training in their programs. Both also must obtain and retain their licenses to continue practicing, so continual education is a must.

Myth 2: OTAs Only Work With People Recovering From Physical Injuries

When most people think of an OTA, they generally assume these healthcare professionals only work with certain kinds of individuals. Based on the word “occupational,” some think OTAs assist people injured in work-related incidents. Others think OTAs work solely with elderly patients.

The Truth:
The term “occupational” doesn’t relate to a job in this case; it refers to the things people do throughout their day to occupy their time. OTAs can work with patients of any age dealing with physical, cognitive, developmental, and emotional challenges, whether they are minor or severe. An OTA’s goal is to help their patients, no matter who they are, improve their overall quality of life and gain more control and independence over their daily living situation.

Myth 3: OTAs Have a Limited Impact On Their Patients

A major misconception about occupational therapy is that it’s a short-term solution for a patient. There’s also a tendency to think that if occupational therapy doesn’t drastically change a patient’s behavior or abilities it doesn’t really do anything.

The Truth:
Occupational therapy is a long-term commitment with lasting results. The effects don’t come overnight and may not appear noticeable to someone who isn’t struggling with the same challenges a patient is. However, patients and their families see and feel the impact treatments can offer.

Myth 4: OTAs Have Limited Job Opportunities

Based on other misconceptions, some think OTAs can only work in limited settings and don’t have as many opportunities to advance their career as other roles in the healthcare field.

The Truth:
The reality is the exact opposite. The occupational therapy assistant job outlook is extremely positive, especially when you factor in projected job growth and median salary. OTA positions are expected to increase by 23% between 2022 and 2032, while the current median salary is just under $65,000 per year. OTAs also have the option to work in a lot of different settings, including hospitals, schools, home health centers, nursing facilities, and more. They can also choose to pursue specializations or work toward an OT degree if they want to advance their career.

Myth 5: OTAs Need to Have a Particular Personality

Some people interested in becoming an OTA might think they aren’t suited for the job if they don’t have a bubbly personality or extroverted traits.

The Truth:
Anyone with empathy and the willingness to learn can become an OTA. Quiet-natured, introverted individuals can succeed in this career field too. Other important traits that help as an OTA include creativity and problem-solving.

Ask About Villa’s OTA Program

Students in Villa’s OTA program excel beyond the classroom. Our two-story functional laboratory facilities and partnership with Felician Sisters Health and Wellness Center prepare our students for real-world situations so they’re more than ready to enter the workforce. Reach out today to learn more about our program and facilities. Reach out to learn more!