Through occupational therapy, patients with a range of physical and psychological challenges can live their best life. From feeling confident about living independently to learning more effectively at school and recovering after an injury, occupational therapists (OTs) help individuals overcome barriers with a series of therapeutic goals. It takes a specific set of qualities to encourage and nurture people through tough times, so let’s take a look at the skills an OT needs to treat their patients effectively.
A willingness to participate in lifelong learning
By continuing their professional development, an OT ensures that their knowledge base remains current and that they can serve their patients well. It is an effective method of keeping up with developments in the industry and new regulations that are designed to keep patients safe. Learning can also be an inspirational experience that renews an OT’s passion for their job and therefore improves patient outcomes.
In addition, it creates opportunities for career enhancement, whether this comes through attracting new patients and growing their practice or via a more senior role. Experienced occupational therapists who would prefer to work while they study can advance their careers through the OTD online programs at American International College. Their online Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate covers advocacy and clinical practice, preparing working OTs for leadership roles and enabling them to graduate in less than two years.
The ability to communicate effectively
OTs need exceptional communication skills because their work involves interacting with many different people every day. In addition to patients, they might need to chat with their families and collaborate with a wider team of healthcare professionals. Being clear and articulate, and modifying their style of communication to suit the audience, are key skills. Listening is another vital part of the OT’s role. Without a complete understanding of what is wrong, they will not be able to formulate a workable recovery plan.
Effective communication is essential in any area of healthcare, and to develop these skills, OTs can make a few simple changes to their practice. They can start by asking open questions, which encourages a patient to elaborate on their condition, and then summarize what is said to show they care about getting it right. Furthermore, they can try to be conscious of their tone as this will need to change depending on the patient. Young people may appreciate an approach that older patients find patronizing, so OT’s should aim to tailor their tone for each individual they see.
Maintaining an interest in new technology
New interventions are constantly being developed, and the best occupational therapists keep themselves informed of these changes. This ensures their patients have access to the latest innovations and can enjoy shorter recovery times and a better overall experience. Science frequently presents new technology-enabled tools, and these might assist with a person’s recovery from spinal injuries or help them adapt to a living environment. OTs have a lot of experience learning more about new ideas and using them to deliver care.
The daily work of all good occupational therapists is innovative because they have to constantly change and adapt to their patients’ needs. However, to learn more about the types of technology that could connect to their practice in future, OTs can enroll in a course, seek advice from a more experienced colleague, or attend conferences that focus on the topic.
Being patient with the people in their care
Patients who are frustrated with their condition or in pain can be quite demanding. At certain points in their career, all occupational therapists will meet people who, for various reasons, want to get things done faster or differently. Through it all, the OT has to remain calm and nurturing. This allows them to reach the ideal end result and ensures their patient remains on board with the agreed therapy.
Patience is a skill that can be improved upon, just like any other quality. In challenging situations, OTs can remind themselves that their patients are often distressed and worried about their condition, and this is what makes them frustrated or non-compliant. The OT can work on their listening skills, which can lead to deeper feelings of empathy. Furthermore, some mild and very tactful humor can often lighten a difficult interaction.
Great organizational abilities
Occupational therapists work with a team of healthcare professionals to achieve the wellness goals of each patient. Part of their working week will include collaborative meetings with experts from other departments. They are also responsible for managing their client schedules, documenting each person’s progress, and establishing new therapies. Gathering and recording information accurately is another key part of their role and has a major impact on patient care.
Some people have a natural ability when it comes to staying organized, but others will have to work on it a little harder. To boost their performance in this area, an OT can create and maintain a digital calendar to remind them of scheduled events. They should devote at least 15 minutes each day to managing this, applying updates and checking for accuracy. Furthermore, if they feel an area of their practice is being neglected, they can complete at least three daily tasks that are designed to improve it. Small steps feel less daunting and therefore tend to be more achievable.
Teamwork can improve health outcomes
Occupational therapists work with their clients on a one-on-one basis, but they also spend time collaborating with others. They often need to coordinate with other medical professionals, such as physiotherapists, nurses and doctors. They will also be in contact with the social workers who are assisting their clients, as well as speech therapists and teachers if they are helping someone who is still in school.
To become better team players, occupational therapists should be transparent in their meetings with other professionals. This establishes an atmosphere of honesty in which people feel they can trust one another. Furthermore, the OT should take notes at each meeting so they can follow up on their colleagues’ concerns and keep them updated when progress is made.
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