Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant in Canada

By: Natalie Carrigan

Occupational therapy is all about working with people and enabling them to perform their daily functions to promote health and well-being while helping them restore the highest possible level of independence. It is art and science of enabling engagement in the life of people who ability to function has been impaired by illness, injury, developmental disability, the process of aging or emotional disability.

The occupational therapy assistants work with a wide range of clients having various physical limitations. They may work with infants, children, youngsters, adults or seniors with varied physical, mental, psychological and developmental issues, and perform all types of activities for them, ranging from their daily needs like cooking, bathing, dressing and eating to using computer, carrying out intervention/treatment plans as directed by the doctors or physiotherapists, and helping them promote movement and improve function through exercises.

Being an occupational therapy assistant(OTA) or physiotherapy assistant (PTA) requires knowledge in anatomy and physiology, issues in aging, human lifespan development, mental health concepts and techniques, therapeutic skills and modalities, and conditions impacting function. Besides this, the profession requires patience, common sense, dedication to serve, determination and enthusiasm. The ability to establish effective communication with clients also plays a crucial role. High level of physical and mental fitness is also required due to the nature of profession.

How to Get the Required Skills?

A career in occupational therapy is personally fulfilling. You help physically or mentally impaired people in attaining normalcy. Although no formal qualification is required to serve the community but this particular profession, as mentioned above, requires a special set of skills. As an OTA or PTA you will need to work under the direct supervision of or in collaboration of physiotherapists or occupational therapists, you must understand medical terminology well. With this, you must also possess relevant knowledge of psychological sciences and health sciences.

An occupational therapy program can provide you with the knowledge, skills and training required to enter the field of work. It typically runs for two years and combines in-class sessions with practical hands-on experience. The program prepares students for employment in outpatient clinics, rehabilitation, community, long term care facilities, community health department, and acute care, hospitals, nursing homes, extended care facilities, seniors’ residences, schools and private healthcare setups.

During the program, you gain in-depth understanding of conditions impacting function, physiotherapy interventions, therapeutic communication, human physiology and anatomy, and health issues while aging and orientation to rehabilitation.

Choosing the Right College

Numerous colleges in Canada offer post-secondary physiotherapist programs but all may not fulfill you specific career goals. Moreover, you may not have the opportunity to apply the skills you have gained during classroom sessions. Centennial College’s program exhibits high academic standards and offers you the opportunity to develop skills in an environment equipped with a wide range of tools in the industry.

In addition, you learn from registered occupational therapists and physiotherapists. You also get several opportunities to participate in supervised fieldwork experiences where you can apply your knowledge and skills in a variety of clinical settings, with a range of client populations.

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Jason White, the author of the article, discusses the knowledge and skills required to become an occupational therapy assistant. In the second part of his article, he writes about how Centennial College’s post-secondary occupational therapy program prepares students for this career.

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