Though it’s an active, growing field, occupational therapy has struggled with gender diversity for years. Women have joined. Men haven’t. Female occupational therapy assistants do wonderful, important work, but the reality is no field can thrive if it’s completely one-sided in gender. We’ve already talked about the need for more OTAs in healthcare, but in this post, we want to focus specifically on why men should become OTAs, both because it’s a great career, but also because diversity is an important resource for us all.
Related resource: What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?
OTAs will grow by 43 percent between 2014-2024. It’s a small field, sure, but that’s a lot of job growth! If that growth only comes from people of one gender, though, the industry’s missing out.
OTAs work in hospitals, patients’ homes, treatment centers, and plenty of other places. If you want to pick your work environment, being an OTA will offer you a lot of flexibility.
The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers (from 2015) list the average OTA salary at $57,870 per year. The OTAs on the highest end of the pay scale made as much as $78,080 per year. That’s pretty good for a job that doesn’t require a four-year degree. Speaking of which…
While getting a bachelor’s can be useful, it’s also costly, and there are a lot of great reasons to attend a trade school.
Related resource: 5 Apps Occupational Therapy Assistants Love
The on-the-job life of OTAs is a rich and rewarding one. Men who become OTAs can look forward to the following:
OTAs provide essential assistance to their patients, and the rewards of helping someone perform a daily task that they couldn’t do a moment ago are real and immediate. If you want work that provides inherent and obvious value, be an OTA.
OTAs don’t just follow charts or instructions. They have to tailor treatment to their patients. As an OTA, you’ll be constantly creating new solutions built for particular patient problems. Some patients might have trouble walking, others standing, and maybe one patient just isn’t able to brush their teeth. You’ll have to figure out something that caters to their exact needs, and that commitment to problem-solving is rewarding.
OTAs spend a lot more time with patients than many other types of healthcare providers. Joining the profession means you’ll spend a lot of time seeing concrete results from the people you care for, as opposed to just looking at their chart.
You’ll become a better communicator, adept at managing emergencies, and you’ll generally be an all-around, in-demand problem solver. And not just with mental skills, either. Having to physically assist patients also means that you’ll get more than a little on-the-job strength training, and that’s always a nice bonus.
Related resource: 10 Creative OTA Therapy Ideas to Improve Skills and Function
Some patients are more comfortable with men. All healthcare providers have to navigate patient preferences on a daily basis. Ideally, any OTA would be able to help any patient. Ideally. We don’t live in that world, though. OTAs assist patients every day doing routine tasks that most of us take for granted. Many patients might be happy to have any help at all, but others could want assistance from an OTA of their own gender. Men and boys could feel discomfort or embarrassment with a female OTA that they wouldn’t necessarily have with a man. For those patients, the option to have a male OTA assist them with daily tasks could make all the difference in their daily requirements.
Related resource: 6 Personality Traits of Highly Effective OTAs
It’s important to have empathetic men in the world. Healthcare workers enter the field because of their capacity for caring, their sense of duty and service, and their desire to help others. Those aren’t traits only found in women. Men also possess the desire and capacity to care, just as women can possess great wells of strength. Anyone, regardless of gender, can reach into themselves and find empathy for a fellow human being. We need men who can do that in healthcare every single day, be they nurses, doctors, or OTAs.