A Day in the Life of an Occupational Therapy Assistant

Staff Writer
Apr 27, 2022

Occupational therapy is a vast field. Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work with a wide array of clients. Anyone who needs to gain or regain the skills to perform daily tasks is a potential client for OT.

That being the case, occupational therapy assistants can work in a variety of settings and venues with a highly diverse clientele. No two OTAs are going to have the same schedule, and a single OTA may deal with a range of challenges and situations every week. Here, though, is an example of a typical day for this anything but typical profession.

6:00 a.m. – Wake up

For plenty of healthcare providers, the swing or graveyard shift are a fact of life. OTAs, though, often have the privilege of working conventional business hours. This is very much a result of occupational therapy itself. OT is all about helping clients gain or regain daily skills, so they’ll be active and working with clients during the times that those daily skills are in use.

Related resource: What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?

8:00 a.m. – Check in, get assignments

OTAs often begin by checking in with an occupational therapist and reviewing what cases and assignments they have for that day. During that time, the OTA will find out what clients they are working with and note where those clients are in their treatments.

8:15 a.m. – Prep for the day

After their initial check-in, OTAs will often spend a bit of time on administrative tasks such as scheduling client treatment, answering emails, or preparing activities for that day.

It’s also possible that an OTA could spend the early morning at a client’s home instructing them in what are known as activities of daily living, or ADL. Occupational therapy seeks to help clients master their daily physical tasks (that is, “occupy” them every day) and it’s very possible that an OTA could find themselves at a client’s home honing their skills in navigating their environment. Some tasks are suited to their specific settings, so OTAs work in those settings.

Related resource: 10 Creative OTA Therapy Ideas to Improve Skills and Function

9:15 a.m. – Work with clients

An OTA can see several clients over the course of the day. Client work can include more ADL, or a range of occupation-based activities intended to assist in the acquisition of cognitive, sensory, or physical skills. There are any number of tasks that an OTA can assist a client in performing, so very likely every shift will vary from every other shift. Still, this is the meat of an OTA’s day.

12:30 p.m. – Lunch

Being an OTA can be an intense, challenging, and rewarding experience. You’ll see clients who are extraordinarily vulnerable but strong, who surmount amazing challenges, and who learn to navigate a world that, months ago, they could not. Sometimes, lunch will mean in-service training, meetings, or other work. On a good day, though, it could mean a quiet break. Having a meal with your coworkers (or alone, if that’s what you need) can provide some much-needed downtime in the middle of the day.

1:00 p.m. – More client work, provide guidance to family members

OTAs will continue to work directly with clients throughout the afternoon. The tail end of the day will mean more hands-on time with patients, as well as writing up assessments of their clients’ status and progress. During either the morning or afternoon, OTAs will also instruct the family members of clients on the nature of treatments being performed, the status of the client, and what future treatments will entail.

Related resource: 10 Reasons OTAs Love Their Work

5:30 p.m. – Prepare for the next day

Like many other healthcare professionals, an OTA will close their day with the relevant paperwork for the clients the worked with earlier. They’ll examine the work they did that day, make some notes for the next day, and make sure everything is squared away for tomorrow.

At the end of the day, an OTA can feel all manner of things. They might be tired from all of the good work they did, or possibly energized from their interactions with clients. Perhaps they leave work thinking about the progress their clients made, and are already envisioning what they’re going to work on in the next session. Regardless of what they’re feeling, though, their work is not something they merely clock in and out of. It is a series of connections with people, and these connections give people the chance to thrive.

Come the next day, it all begins again!

For more information about Joyce’s OTA program, check out our free e-book, 7 Fast Facts About Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant, and keep in touch with the Joyce community on Facebook.


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