Occupational Therapy is a health Profession which utilizes human occupation as the intervention media to promote health and well being. The primary goal of Occupational Therapy is to enable people to participate independently in their Activities of Daily Living. Occupational Therapists achieve this outcome by enabling people to engage in scientifically selected activities that will enhance their ability to participate or by modifying their living environment to better support independent function. During occupational therapy interventions, clients are actively involved in the therapeutic process; outcomes for intervention are client-driven and measured in terms of client participation and satisfaction (Adapted from WFOT Definition, 2004).
Where can Occupational Therapists work and what do they do?
Occupational Therapists can practice in a wide range of settings which include hospitals, health centres, schools, workplace and homes. The Occupational Therapy Programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal covers a wide range of training which prepares graduates to offer services in medical, surgical, orthopaedic, neurological, psychiatric, paediatric, child and adolescent, work related and geriatric conditions.
Services which can be offered by an Occupational Therapist:
- General Functional Assessments and Specialised Assessments for Work Placements, School Readiness, Disability Grant, Medico-Legal Claims and Medical Boarding
- Specific Assessments for specific conditions in various Areas of Practice above
- Specific Interventions for Conditions in respective Areas of Practice above
- Adaptation of environments/ processes to facilitate independent functional performance in ADL
- Designing Home Programmes designed to develop/ sustain/ restore skills in Activities of Daily Living in collaboration with the client/ family/care giver.
- Prescription/ design, fabrication and training of clients in the use of assistive technology/ prosthetic devices
- Adaptation of environments/ processes to facilitate independent functional performance in Activities of daily Living
A day in the life of an Occupational Therapist
A day in the life of an occupational therapists in a general hospital could include a ward round with the medical team discussing the progress of their clients; manufacturing and fitting splints to clients with different conditions (e.g. burns or hand injuries); time in the workshop manufacturing a specialised assistive device for a client with paralysis of the upper limbs and time counselling a disabled client’s family on how to reinforce the client’s progress to greater independence.
A day in the life of an occupational therapist working in a mental health setting could include attending a multidisciplinary case discussion; a home visit to a client experiencing difficulties with relationships at home and facilitating an income generating project for people with chronic mental illness.
A day in the life of an occupational therapist working in a community setting could include a meeting with significant community members and people with disabilities to identify typical problems experienced and to facilitate development of support groups to facilitate integration into the community; visit to a disabled child’s school to assist the teacher in facilitating optimal learning for the child in the classroom and running a developmental stimulation group for children with severe disabilities and their caregivers.
Where can an Occupational Therapist work?
- Government and private hospitals
- Day care centres for people with disabilities (adults and children)
- Special schools for children with physical, mental and learning disabilities
- Private nursing homes and homes for the elderly
- Urban and rural community health structures and clinics
- Universities training occupational therapists and conducting research relevant issues
- Industrial settings rehabilitating disabled workers and advising on methods of preventing occupational injury
- Legal settings - assessing the impact of disability for insurance purposes
- Prisons – advising on and implementing activity programmes for prisoners undergoing rehabilitation
- Private practice.