This page will give you insight into the different non-traditional settings of which occupational therapists work in. Firstly, we will provide you with a set of skills that are crucial to working in a non-traditional setting and then talk about what area’s occupational therapists are working in and where you could work in as a new graduate OT!
Skills that are needed for non-traditional settings:
Occupational therapists have skills and abilities that are transferable to other jobs in non-traditional settings. In order to work in a non-traditional setting, occupational therapists are required to have the following skills;
1. Responsivity – This skill refers to the ability to lean towards dependency and are sensitive aswell as responsive to the environment around us.
2. Reasoned judgement – the ability to make sound judgements by executing and justifying reasons for practice.
3. Recognition of priorities – ability to set priorities and the skill of flexibility and organisation.
4. Realism- realistic standards of time-frame setting for tasks and taking on realistic workloads.
5. Rapport- establishing rapport easily with both clients and work colleagues.
Rural occupational therapy – what is involved?
Working in a rural setting, in particular as a sole occupational therapist in the community field can be considered a non-traditional position due to the lack of supervision. It is estimated that 23% of rural Occupational therapists are Sole O.T’s. Some positions in community occupational therapy are positions that don’t have supervision which can be very daunting for new graduates therefore if students aren’t comfortable or confident working without aid it may not be considered the job for that individual. Rural occupational therapy is an area of occupational therapy that has a high workload therefore there is not enough time for supervision. Due to this lack of supervision it is important for rural occupational therapists to require some form of support to decrease the risk of feelings of isolation. It is found within the rural setting that feelings of isolation can occur if there are limited opportunities to share ideas, offer support to others and share resources. Fortunately, It is reported that there is wide base of support from allied health professionals is important for their emotional support and to ensure they are collaborating with others.
As a new graduate working in the field it is important to note there can be difficulty establishing a professional identity without professional support and that it can cause a lot of self-pressure when having to promote the occupational therapy role to other team members when one is not confident in doing so. This is a factor that new graduates wanting to work in this field need to consider. The skill to feel comfortable advocating the identification of occupational therapy is important to reduce the pressures of working without supervision.
Case management roles – what is involved?
When entering settings such as mental health, occupational therapists have been seen to take on case management roles which is not traditionally the role of an occupation therapist. Occupational therapists take on these case management roles such as considering particular aspects of an individual’s circumstances, symptomatology, medication, criminal and legal issues and illicit substance misuse.
Occupational therapy in the public sector
Private practice is an area that can be considered quite ‘non-traditional.’ The private practice occupational therapists can be defined as self-employed functioning as independent people for tax purposes. There are a variety roles in the private sector including working with children in their home, at school or pre-school, working with adults with chronic illness, adults with a disability or with mental health. Some of the roles that are similar to what occupational therapist’s undertake in a clinical setting is completing assessments such as home assessments, activity of daily living assessments and equipment provision.
Due to health care needing to become more effective there has been a rapid growth in private practices to adhere to the population. It is important to take into consideration before entering the public sector that Isolation is an expected outcome of private occupational therapy as there is not much availability of supervision for newly graduated O.Ts in this field. A way to overcome this is to encourage the private practices to take on occupational therapy students, this increases the chances of sharing ideas and knowledge therefore decreasing the isolation that comes with working independently. It is also important to note that if you feel confident in working alone, this might be the area for you!
References: (Royeen, 1990;Steenbergen & MacKenzie, 2004; Culverhouse & Bibby, 2008; Scaffa et al. 2011; Meritt et al. 2013 and Slogget et al. 2003)
Opportunities to work in disaster relief
A role occupational therapists work in is disaster relief, playing a vital role in the preparedness, response and recovery of a disaster. This role is considered quite non-traditional as there are aspects to the job that are not typically occupational therapy roles however there is a huge space for transfer of skills.
Occupational therapists partake in the following roles during preparation for a disaster;
-Facility- level and community-wide planning
-Designing special need shelters
-Assisting employers with plans of evacuating people with a disability
Roles in disaster response:
-Provide mental health services to victims, families and to first responders (fire fighters, police ect.)
-Manage special need shelters
-Provision of occupational interventions in shelters
-Facilitating support groups on how to manage anxiety and stress
Role during the recovery phase:
- provide occupation based and mental health services for persons with acute stress reactions and PTSD.
- Interventions designed to be meaningful and purposeful to those engaged in them, and they support the individual, family, community, or agency in responding to effects of disaster
- OT’S use their professional expertise and the power of occupational engagement to restore control, order, and quality of life and to normalize lives in crisis when individuals, families, institutions, and communities are disrupted by natural or technological disaster
There are many roles that aren’t seen as traditional such as the involvement in preparation for a disaster such as facility-level and community wide planning, training volunteers and designing special need shelters. However there is a transfer of skills learnt from course-work and placement that can be used during these roles such as client centeredness, clinical justification, holistic view of care and universal design for people with a disability.