What is Occupational Therapy Aide?
An occupational therapy aide is an individual who supports and assists the occupational therapist (OT) and Occupational therapy Assistant (OTA) by performing specifically delegated tasks.
Occupational therapy aides may also be referred to as rehabilitation aides/technicians, restorative aides, or service extenders.
OT and OTA both can supervise the occupational therapy aides. But OT aides cannot supervise OT practice.
OT aide Roles-
- OT aides are not considered OT practitioner, according to AOTA standards of practice. The use of OT aides has increased in response to changes in the health care system (i.e., pressures to control costs have resulted in the delegation of non-skilled tasks to aides).
- OT aides can be delegated non-skilled tasks by OTAs or OTs.
- Non-skilled tasks aides may perform include routine maintenance and clerical activities, preparation of the clinic area for intervention, and/or specified, supervised aspects of a treatment session (e.g., contact guarding a client while therapist teaches transfers).
- Sometimes, OT aide may provide client-related tasks where the aide may interact with the client. But it should be under the direction and guidance of occupational therapist.
OT Aides Training and Requirement –
A minimum requirement to become an occupational therapy aide is a high school diploma and no special certification is required.
The interested person receives on-the-job training from the registered occupational therapist. The level of training is limited, so the close supervision is necessary to learn the working pattern.
No license needed to practice as an OT Aide, so by the law, they are not allowed to perform any clinical tasks.
Some additional certification like Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) or any other certificate/diploma related to human science will help aides to perform better and generally preferable by the recruiter.
Basically, A diploma or degree is not required for the post of occupational therapy aide. But if someone interested in learning more, some schools offer online training certificate or diploma to the high school grad student to perceive their career as an OT aide.
Few schools provide online certificate course, which helps the person to learn the basics of human systems and occupational therapy. The duration of course is around 4 months and course fees is nearly about $700.
Job description –
The aide has to do some selected and delegated work under the observation of OT or OTA. The work includes client-related and Non-client-related tasks.
Occupational therapy aide also maintains equipment in good working condition and schedule activities for occupational therapist.
The occupational therapy aide is generally responsible for carrying out the non-technical duties of occupational therapy, such as preparing treatment areas, ordering devices and supplies, and transporting patients.
Working under the direction of occupational therapy, the occupational therapy aide may be employed in home health care, nursing homes, hospitals, rehab centers, mental health, and schools.
According to the bureau of labor statistics, an average salary of occupational therapy aide is 29,040 USD.
The entry level pay may be slightly less. i.e. around 28000 USD. But experienced aides get more than the average salary.
Previous experiences, work settings, other soft skills support to get a better salary.
No one pays anybody a good salary for the single unskilled job. Similarly, OT aides must have some other basic skills to accelerate their career.
To be successful as an OT aide, it is important that he/she possess the appropriate educational and technical skills, as well as the interpersonal skills necessary to communicate effectively with others.
They should have some other basic qualities. If they don’t have, they may acquire these things through courses or self-learning-
Punctuality is a necessary thing. OT aides should follow the thumb rule. He/she should clean the area of treatment before the therapy session starts. So, neither the OT nor the patient wastes their time.
- Work under pressure –
Sometimes, the OT/OTA has lots of work, so they may transfer their some non-clinical work (paperwork) to Aides. And these paper works are generally time bounded. So, OT aides must be able to work under the pressure.
- Flexible –
OT aide must be flexible in the work setting. He/she must be flexible to work inside as well as outside of the clinic. He may have to assist the client to come inside the therapy room from his vehicle.
- Follow rules and instruction-
They must follow the rule and instruction given by the OT/OTA, health agency, and/or hospital.
- Computer skills –
They should require computer and data entry skills and use of basic applications like MS word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint. Typing and other clerical works are the main work of occupational therapy Aide.
- Basic office job-
He must be proficient in basic office jobs like filling, data collection, arrangement, and distribution of many things.
- Basic knowledge about human system-
Occupational therapist and occupational therapy assistant are qualified and directly deals with the patient. They have deep knowledge about the human system and treatment approaches. But we can’t expect much from the occupational therapy Aide because they are just a high school passed out person, but they can learn the basics of the human system. It will help them to understand, what is their supervisors (OT/OTA) are doing with the patient.
- Vital signs –
They must understand the emergency condition of the patient and what to do in that scenario if no one is around. At least they must know about the basic vital signs like blood pressure, pulse, and heartbeat. If they notice any changes in the vital sign they must tell it to the OT or OTA.
- Aseptic conditions-
OT aides also work under the inpatient rehab setting, where nurses, PT, OT all looks for the aseptic atmosphere to prevent any opportunistic infections. They should know the basic hand cleaning techniques.
- Common terminology-
As the OT aides are not aware of the health system, medical/ therapy education, they may don’t know the basic terminology or short forms OT/OTA uses during the evaluation and/or treatment. For example, when OT/OTA say the word COPM, then they are talking about the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure. But it may be difficult for an OT aides.
- Good communication skills-
This is the basic skills required in every profession. OT aides must communicate, discuss their issues/problems with the superiors. They should be able to talk with the patient, colleague, therapist and other rehab team members.
Occupational therapy aides should closely observe the OT/OTA, learn their pattern of working, terminologies, and ways of documentation.
Occupational therapy Aides are the part of the occupational therapy profession. They look for the non-clinical part of therapy. They assist OT and/or OTA in many things.
Kathryn Quinlan. Occupational therapy aide (1999). Capstone Press Publication.