Occupational therapy assistants help increase quality of lifeMarch 7, 2016
For most, getting dressed or making breakfast are normal, everyday responsibilities.
However, common tasks such as these are considered major successes for certified occupational therapy assistants and their patients.
Certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) are part of a team that works with a varied population of patients who have suffered injury, illness or lost some function through the aging process.
"COTAs work under the guidance of a registered occupational therapist, who completes an initial evaluation making a complete assessment to the patients individual needs and determines a plan of care that the COTA carries out through various means of functional tasks, such as working through difficulties with home care, meal preparation, self care, etc., and ensuring that the patient is safe in his or her environment to complete these tasks," said Donna M. Rodriguez, a certified occupational therapy assistant at DM Rodriguez Home Therapy.
"COTAs also teach compensatory techniques and the use of assistive or adaptive devices to compensate for functions the patient is no longer able to complete as they were prior to their injury or illness. Their role is to help the individual regain or maintain as much independence as possible."
COTAs are essential in the everyday operations of a facility or home environment because they provide training, education and instruction based on an individual's needs.
"From a home health standpoint, the role of a COTA is a crucial element with regard to regaining patients level of self-confidence and independence. We enter a patient home typically immediately after discharge from a hospital or rehab facility. They are vulnerable and confused, with the obvious changes to oneself and the manner in which they will care for themselves and family," said Jessica Scott, a certified occupational therapy assistant at Houston Occupational Therapy Inc.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the COTA position will grow 42.6 percent by 2022, an overall growth rate that is much faster than the average for all professions.
The job growth is due, in part, to the wide range of settings in with COTAs can work, including psychosocial practice, acute care hospitals, adult rehabilitation practices, developmental disability practices, public school practices, senior care and home health care.
"I have been employed with Houston Occupational Therapy Inc. for many years, providing occupational therapy services throughout the Houston area, so I am pleased to hear that the field of occupational therapy is growing and the need for the assistant is in demand. I am not shocked, though, because of the volume of patients we treat and the increased understanding of our profession," Scott said.
The growing need for COTAs in the near future emphasizes the great importance they play in recovery and assisting one to gain independence in their life. Scott said she has seen countless lives improved with the help of COTAs.
"I had the pleasure of (helping) a young mother who suffered a stroke during childbirth. The stroke left her unable to care for her newborn and hold her during feeding. The mother's primary goal was to gain strength and be able to hold her child without assistance," Scott said. "When you think of all the lives that you affect, it gives you pride and a great sense of gratification to be an occupational therapy assistant."