The Certified Occupational therapy assistant works with patients to help them follow a rehabilitation plan designed by an occupational therapist after a debilitating illness or injury. They help patients every step of the way from teaching them how to strengthen damaged or deteriorated muscles to readjusting themselves to daily life outside a clinical setting. A Certified therapy assistant is responsible for recording accurate notes on each patient’s daily progress to be submitted for review by a supervising therapist.
The COTA can find job opportunities in a number of different environments. While the majority of occupational therapy assistants find jobs in hospitals, occupational therapists' offices and residential care facilities, other work environments include home health care agencies, government aid programs and family service agencies.
To become an occupational therapy assistant, a 2-year associate's degree or a 1-year certificate from an accredited college or technical school is a standard requirement. Many prospective employers will also require licensure by your particular state before hiring a candidate for a Therapist Assistants position. Most students choose the two year program and study subjects including Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology, Psychology and Rehabilitation Theory. This is followed by the examinations to gain a COTA license. Every state has differing requirements for this examination so it is essential that you understand your particular state’s rules.
Of course, it takes a particular kind of person to do this kind of healthcare work. Patients in rehabilitation can be very slow to respond to treatment, and many are often resistant to it all together as they have feel they have been through enough already. The Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant has to have the patience to help their clients through this difficult time at their own pace, and the drive to encourage them to continue to strive for recovery if they experience setbacks. The job requires the same level of dedication as that of the supervising therapists and doctors the COTA will work with. As many COTA employees work in a hospital or residential facility setting there is the opportunity to work a variation of shifts, which can be a benefit to those juggling the demands of work and raising a family. Starting salaries are usually higher than those for a general nursing assistant and many healthcare facilities, who strive to retain qualified staff, offer help with financing and pursuing further education in order that the COTA may progress up the career ladder.
Opportunities for the COTA professional are abundant. Many hospitals hold a healthcare job fair on a regular basis, and the number of medical recruitment firms specializing in the placement of healthcare workers is on the rise. These are good places to begin when seeking employment after obtaining licensure. In addition, many of the colleges and schools that offer COTA training programs also have a job placement assistance program to help new graduates find their first job in the field.
If an individual wants a career that is not only financially rewarding but is also focused on helping others, becoming a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant may be just the right fit.