What Can an Occupational Therapy Aide Do for You?

What Can an Occupational Therapy Aide Do for You?. GettyImages

You began occupational therapy with an evaluation with your occupational therapist (OT). On your next visit, you had a treatment session with a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA). Now you find yourself chatting with an occupational therapy aide.

Keeping everyone’s role straight in the therapy department can be challenging, even to those of us who work in health care. This article is intended to help you understand the role of an occupational therapy aide throughout your treatment.

An OT Aide’s Role in a Rehab Department

Unlike your OT and COTA, an OT aide is not licensed by the state to provide skilled treatment. Instead, an OT aide helps with the daily operations of the rehab department. They play a large role in maintaining the physical environment and simply being available to meet the need of patients. Their responsibilities may include:

  • Transporting patients between their hospital room and the therapy department
  • Cleaning and maintaining therapy equipment
  • Turning over treatment rooms between clients
  • Answering phones
  • Ordering of supplies
  • Keeping track of inventory
  • Scheduling patients
  • Laundry
  • Overseeing routine care and exercises
  • Fostering a friendly and professional work environment through interaction with clients.

An occupational therapist or the rehabilitation director typically supervises OT aides.

What Training Does it Take to Be an OT Aide?

OT aides possess a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

They may have received only on the job training or they may have completed a training program. For example, you can get certified as an OT aide via an online course in less than a month. Some positions may require specific certifications, such as CPR or a lifeguard certification.

Through training, an OT aide should have a general understanding of the occupational therapy process, the equipment typically used, and how to communicate effectively with patients.

Employers typically look to hire aides with strong interpersonal skills, as their presence can greatly enhance the patient experience. Strong organizational skills are also sought after to help smoothly maintain the physical environment. Many positions also seek aides that are able to safely lift and carry a certain amount of weight, as transporting patients and supplies may be part of the job.

The job work can be similar to that of a physical therapy aide, rehabilitation aide, restorative aide, therapy aide, or speech pathology aide. OT aides may be able to transfer their skill set between these unique jobs.

How Rehabilitation Departments Benefit from Employing OT Aides

Departments often employ occupational therapy aides when they have multiple therapists where the therapists work out of a centralized location, such as inpatient rehabilitation, skilled nursing facility and outpatient clinics. OTs and COTAs have demands to utilize the majority of their time treating patients and documenting their services, OT aides can be the feet on the ground making sure that patients are having a good experience during their visit.

How You Can Benefit from and OT Aide

Getting to know the OT aides in your therapy department can greatly enhance your experience. These aides are available to help the department run smoothly and thus are a great person to talk to about operational issues related to the department. Simple requests such as ice in front of the building or a lack of supplies in the bathroom are great to talk to an aide about.

Beyond that, they often acquire a wealth of knowledge about the client from interacting with therapists and patients over the years. Their availability and experience can make them a great person to chat with about your personal experience with the therapy process. 

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