Occupational therapist was rated one of the top jobs of 2016, so naturally many folks are interested in finding out what exactly the job entails. To learn more, we spoke to Stephanie Forseth, who has been working as an occupational therapist for the last 5 years.

Workopolis: Can you describe what an occupational therapist does?  

Forseth: An occupational therapist (OT) is a health care professional who works in multiple settings to enable their clients to function independently in their daily lives.

Occupational therapists focus on three main areas: self-care (bathing, dressing, etc.), productivity (work, volunteer, school, etc.), and leisure (sports, art, music). The OT incorporates a client-centred approach, meaning they collaborate with the client to determine what goals are important to them.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I work for a provincially funded community-based practice where I see a wide variety of clients across the lifespan in their homes. A typical day in home care is difficult to describe because it is such a diverse role; there is no real “typical” day. On average, clients will be referred to me for a home safety or accessibility assessment, equipment prescription, cognitive and functional screenings, and re-training in activities of daily living (such as dressing, bathing,etc.) or instrumental activities of daily living (such as medication management, shopping, meal preparation, etc).

Most days involve multidisciplinary team rounds, completing referral based home visits for assessment or treatment, liaising between clients and equipment vendors for assistive devices, chart documentation, scheduling visits, and completing paperwork.

What was it that interested you about working in health care and becoming an OT?

I have always been a person who found great fulfillment in helping others. I was interested in providing people with the knowledge and skills to be independent and empowered during times where they may potentially be most vulnerable. After job shadowing a pediatric occupational therapist and realizing how broad the job could be, I was interested in becoming an OT because I knew I could help people!

How does one become an OT?

To become an OT, you require a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy. To apply to the two- year program, you need a four-year undergraduate degree which can be from any area (though I personally found having a degree in kinesiology and the knowledge of the human body to be very helpful).

What would you say makes a good OT? Are there any specific skills or qualities that are particularly important?

To be a good OT, you must have compassion, the desire to help others reach their goals, and be a great listener. Some other important qualities to have are open-mindedness, effective communication skills and creativity.

Are there any misconceptions that people have about your job?

Yes! Many people think an Occupational therapist is a career counselor or equate the career to Occupational Health & Safety. However, Occupational Therapists are becoming more recognized for the variety of practice areas they are involved in and the positive impact that we have on the health care system and client care.

What advice would you give job seekers looking into a career as an OT?

The good news for job seekers looking to get into this career, is that the demand for OTs is rising as the role is more widely understood and as the Canadian population ages. Because of that, the OT role is expanding into new areas of practice, such as emergency departments, family doctor offices, and the non-profit sector.

I would advise you to do some research on the profession (check out the ‘Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists’ website for more information) or job shadow an OT to see if it’s for you. I hope you decide to join the rewarding, ever-evolving profession of occupational therapy!

Sound like something you would be interested in? Check out occupational therapist jobs on Workopolis.