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What is it like to work as an Occupational Therapist?

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What is it like to work as an Occupational Therapist?

It’s Occupational Therapy week. Fit For Work team member Lois Hill discusses what it is like to be an Occupational Therapsit and why it is a smart career choice.


  • What do you do on a daily basis to assist people to improve their wellbeing and quality of life?

For many people work is an integral part of who they are. It gives them a sense of identity, a, social network, provides routine and financial security. Being unable to work due to injury can really dent their wellbeing due to its impact on all of these factors.

As an OT working in Vocational Rehab, it is my role to help them navigate their return to work following injury. This can be a really stressful time for many of my clients, caused by adjustments to their life as well as the uncertainty an injury brings. My main goals include enabling them to feel heard, facilitate positive communication between them, their employer, ACC and other members of the team (e.g. GP, physio) and for a smooth transition back to work.

Fit For Work OTs also develop plans for building up a client’s activity in a sustainable way. We work to identify specific and practical strategies to help our clients manage their symptoms at work, which helps to rebuild confidence and manages any risk of re-injury.

Many people are very motivated to return to work but can find themselves unsure of how to do this in a manageable way. Often, they feel uncomfortable about asking their employer or colleagues to work around them (e.g. light duties, more breaks, reduced hours). OTs can advocate for their current limitations and what accommodations need to be made by ACC and their employer. The aim is to work with all parties to get a manageable plan in place that everyone is happy with.

We work in a holistic way. While the main focus is on work, OTs are good at being able to develop strategies and a plan for getting back to normal activity more broadly.


  • What are the benefits of being occupied and why it is important to people?

A central belief for OTs is that engaging in meaningful occupation is central to wellbeing. OTs consider ‘occupation’ as being any activity that occupies your time, rather than just work-related occupation.

Being meaningfully occupied helps us feel a sense of purpose and enjoyment in life; it helps to define our roles and who we are; it often allows us to connect with other people and helps to bring about routine.

Because OTs view activity and ‘being occupied’ as a key component of rehab, they work to integrate things clients may have learned in the gym or psychology sessions etc to real world activity.


  • Why occupational therapy is a smart career choice

Being an OT is a very fulfilling profession.  As an OT, you are able to have a meaningful impact on peoples’ lives – helping them navigate their way through life challenges such as injury.

It’s really enjoyable to be able to work in a holistic way, treating every person as a unique person rather than the sum of their ailments – working with them to find solutions specific to their situation. I also get to work with a lovely team of people who also go into this line of work due to a desire to help other people.

OTs generally get to work “normal” working hours that allow you to have a good work life balance (a key value of OTs!)

It’s also a health profession that usually allows you to steer clear of blood and other bodily fluids!

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