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Occupational Therapy Assistants: Improving Patients’ Quality of Life Each Day through Compassion and Skill

Posted: April 1, 2016 by Elizabeth Baker

April is Occupational Therapy Month, and at Pima Medical Institute, we are very passionate about the career, where trained professionals enable and empower patients to gain independence and improve their quality of life.

The occupational therapist assistant (OTA) career focuses on helping patients so that they may help themselves. Patients may have a physical or developmental disability, or they may be recovering from an injury, and it’s hindering them for doing the things they enjoy or simply need to do to maintain quality of life. These patients can range in age, from children to the elderly. They may need help with dressing, cooking, driving, or other day-to-day skills.
Occupational therapy assistant students learn how to dress with the use of only one handOccupational therapy assistant students at Pima Medical Institute's Denver campus learn how to dress using only one hand so that they may help patients once they are working.

“Because occupational therapy practitioners work with a broad variety of physical, cognitive, psychological, social and environmental factors, the education at Pima Medical Institute includes courses in physical health and function, mental health and function, activity analysis and development, and treatment techniques,” said OTA Program Director Amy Solomon, MS, OTR/L. Solomon oversees the OTA program at Pima Medical’s Denver campus.

“There is a strong focus on hands-on practice, and labs consist of working with adaptive methods for cooking, dressing, writing, or any other activity that might be important to a client.”

When Pima Medical OTA students learn about working with children, specifically, they receive training in adaptations for school, facilitating typical development, and adapting toys for play. In the mental health portion, students practice running groups and teaching social and other skills.

“Students also practice more medically related skills, such as constructing and fitting orthotics and splints. To actively engage students in this hands-on practice, the OTA lab includes a mock apartment/hospital room, a bathroom, functional kitchen, and medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, physical agent modalities and treatment tables.”

At Pima Medical, students complete 16 weeks of supervised fieldwork—known as their clinical externship—after they’ve completed coursework. Once they’ve completed their clinical externship, they graduate and are eligible to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam, which qualifies them for state licensure and employment.

An occupational therapy assistant student studies different methods of eating with a modified spoon
An occupational therapy assistant student at
Pima Medical Institute's Denver campus learns
various eating techniques.

OTAs may work in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, school systems, private adult and pediatric clinics, and in community settings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for OTAs is good, with a projected 40 percent growth between now and 2024.

We offer the occupational therapy assistant associate degree at seven campuses: Mesa and Tucson, Ariz., Denver, Las Vegas, El Paso, Houston, and Renton, Wash.

To learn more, visit our OTA program online at http://pmi.edu/Programs/Associate/Occupational-Therapy-Assistant.

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