Blue designed graphic with text overlay says a day in the life of an occupational therapy assistant.

A Day in the Life of an Occupational Therapy Assistant

Gwen Davis-Barrios
Reviewed by Dr. Crystal Young
Apr 2, 2024

An Occupational Therapy Assistant’s Daily Schedule

Before diving into any career, it’s important to know what a typical day on the job entails. Doing this gives insight into what you might encounter, and the same goes for a career as an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA). At Joyce University, our OTA associate’s program teaches what daily life as an OTA looks like, firsthand, through classroom and fieldwork opportunities.

What do occupational therapy assistants do?

Your OTA daily routine will usually include collaborating with an Occupational Therapist (OT), prep work, meeting with clients, and advising their family members. No two days are identical as an OTA. Before learning the ropes in person, here’s a typical OTA schedule.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Schedule

6:00 a.m. | Wake Up

Fans of a regular sleep schedule and consistent morning routine, rejoice! A day in the life of an OTA begins in the morning with the majority of the working world. Unlike most healthcare careers, where swing shifts and graveyard hours make nocturnal living unavoidable, the OT industry takes place during regular business hours.

8:00 a.m. | Check In and Get Assignments

OTAs work in a variety of settings, from hospitals to schools to homes and beyond. However, a large majority of OTAs work in specialized OT outpatient clinics, under the supervision of one or more OTs.

When you arrive at work, you’ll typically check in with an OT, review the patients you’ll see that day, and receive a list of assignments. OTA daily tasks can include:

  • Training patients on exercises.
  • Teaching patients to use adaptive equipment.
  • Teaching patients mindfulness and stress management techniques.
  • Modifying a patient’s space to better suit their needs.
  • Tracking patient progress and reporting it to a supervising OT.
  • Maintaining treatment areas and equipment.
  • Planning and executing community activities and outings for patients.
  • Collaborating with speech therapists, art therapists, case management or other providers.

8:15 a.m. | Prep for the Day

After checking in at work, you’ll typically have a few minutes to take care of administrative tasks like scheduling, answering emails, or preparing your clients’ activities.

9:15 a.m. | Work With Clients

It’s time to complete those daily tasks you were assigned when you got to work. Most of your OTA daily routine will be spent working with clients to strengthen skills that enable the activities of daily living (ADL). Successful OTAs individualize care for each client and prioritize their preferences when building a treatment plan.

As an OTA, you may also spend the morning at a client’s home, where they complete many of their ADLs. The opportunity to work in a client’s home is a unique gift of the OTA profession and builds meaningful relationships with clients. It’s also a common part of an OTA schedule.

For example, you may work with a client who’s learning to transfer themself in and out of their wheelchair to their bed, the toilet, the car, or the shower. Their home is the ideal place to practice these activities.

12:30 p.m. | Lunch

Midway through the day, you’ll have a lunch break. OTA work is rewarding, but it can be intense to work up close and personal with clients who are navigating huge challenges. Your lunch break can provide much-needed downtime or an opportunity to connect with your coworkers. Time to recharge helps you be fully present for the rest of the patients you’ll see.

With that being said, you may have to spend some lunch periods training, in meetings, or catching up on administrative tasks.

1:00 p.m. | Work With Clients and Their Families

In the afternoon of a day in your life as an OTA, you’ll work with more clients.

You’ll also write up their status and progress for their patient record. It’s important to keep clients and their families updated regarding their treatment, status, and progress so that even when they leave the clinic, they can keep practicing the techniques and exercises you’ve taught them. This is also a vital step for insurance to pay for their treatment sessions. Good communication skills make for great OTAs, helping clients continue progressing in the office and at home. In the therapy world, you’ll hear the phrase “If you didn’t document it, it didn’t happen.”

5:00 p.m. | Prepare for the Next Day

Just like most healthcare professionals, an OTA’s final daily tasks are recordkeeping and paperwork. You’ll examine the work you did with each patient, make notes for the following day, and make sure everything is squared away and ready to begin again tomorrow.

5:30 p.m. | Return Home

Many OTAs find that at the end of a day, they keep thinking about their clients. That’s because OT isn’t a job where you merely punch the clock, do your work, and punch out. As an OTA, you’ll make real connections with your patients, and these connections help them thrive.

Is an OTA Career Right for You?

Looking at an OTA schedule is one way to gauge your interest in this career. Another effective tool to decide whether becoming an OTA is right for you is volunteer work. Many clinics, schools, geriatric facilities, and OTA policy organizations have volunteer programs where you can learn if OT is a good fit and even find your preferred specialty.

Joyce’s OTA program can help you decide where you fit into this rewarding career. With supportive students and faculty, fieldwork opportunities, and a career services organization, Joyce is primed to set you up for success as an OTA.

FAQs About Occupational Therapy Assistants’ Daily Routine

What is daily life like for an OTA?

As an OTA, you’ll check in with a supervising OT, work with clients, maintain equipment, keep records, and communicate with clients and their families.

In what employment setting do most OTAs work?

Most OTAs work in outpatient clinics, but there are ample job opportunities for OTAs. As an OTA, you could work in hospitals, schools, summer camps, client homes, geriatric facilities, and pediatric clinics.

Where do OTAs make the most money?

You can make a great salary as an OTA. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the median annual wage for OTAs in the United States is $64,250.

Is OTA a low stress job?

Healthcare jobs can be intense. While OTAs often become emotionally invested in their patients, they don’t have to be on the front line of emergencies like first responders or critical care providers do. This makes OT less stressful than most jobs in the healthcare field.

Do OTAs have a good work/life balance?

OTAs enjoy regular working hours and rarely need to work swing or graveyard shifts, which helps with work/life balance. One barrier to good work/life balance for OTAs is the emotional attachment you can build with your clients, which makes it difficult to separate work from home life.

Are OTAs happy?

A career as an OTA can be physically and emotionally demanding work. However, seeing your patients achieve milestones in their recovery are just some of the reasons why OTAs love their job.

Becoming an OTA is a great career choice for people who want to make a difference every day. Because OTA schedules change a little bit every day, this field can give you a stable job that keeps you on your toes. Begin your OTA career in less than 2 years with Joyce University’s OTA program.

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