Occupational therapy assistants support occupational therapists by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement. They work under the supervision of an occupational therapist.
Includes people working with students.
Includes people performing staff supervision.
The following job titles also refer to occupational therapy assistant:
support worker in occupational therapy
occupational therapy rehabilitation assistant
OT support worker
assistant in occupational therapy
technician in occupational therapy
Associate’s degree is generally required to work as occupational therapy assistant. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Occupational therapy assistant is a Skill level 4 occupation.
Occupational therapy assistant career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to occupational therapy assistant.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of occupational therapy assistant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of occupational therapy assistant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of occupational therapy assistant.
Hygiene in a health care setting: The procedures related to maintaining a hygienic environment within a health care setting such as hospitals and clinics. It can range from hand washing to cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment used and infection control methods.
Occupational physiology: The complex physiology of specific jobs and its relation to disorders and medical conditions and the way to optimize health, work ability, and productivity.
Health care occupation-specific ethics: The moral standards and procedures, ethical questions and obligations specific to occupations in a health care setting such as respect for human dignity, self-determination, informed consent and patient confidentiality.
Community-based rehabilitation: The method of rehabilitation which involves the creation of social programs for the impaired or disabled persons to allow them integration into the community.
Supervision of persons: The act of directing one individual or a group of individuals in a certain activity.
Vocational rehabilitation: The rehabilitation process of persons with functional, psychological, developmental, cognitive and emotional impairments or health disabilities to overcome barriers to accessing, maintaining or returning to employment or other useful occupation.
Occupational science: The study of everyday activity including the behaviours, characteristics, and patterns of behaviour and productivity.
Movement techniques: The various types of movement and physical postures undertaken for relaxation, body-mind integration, stress reduction, flexibility, core support and rehabilitation purposes, and that are required for or underpin occupational performance.
Ergonomics: The science of designing systems, processes and products that complement the strengths of people so that they can use them easily and safely.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of occupational therapy assistant.
Exercise patience: Have patience by dealing with unexpected delays or other waiting periods without becoming annoyed or anxious.
Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
Monitor patients’ progress related to treatment: Observe and report on healthcare users’ response to medical treatment, monitoring their progress or decay on a daily basis and modifying the treatment procedures whenever necessary.
Assist healthcare users achieve autonomy in everyday activities: Assist healthcare users to achieve autonomy in all types of activity, like dressing, cooking, eating, and using a computer.
Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, health care professionals, and community partners.
Develop therapeutic relationships: Maintain the individual therapeutic relationship to engage the individual’s innate healing capacities, to achieve active collaboration in the health education and healing process and to maximise the potential of healthy change.
Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
Apply techniques of occupational therapy: Apply occupational therapy techniques, such as retraining, and splinting in the rehabilitation and recovery of patients, and advising patients on their daily activities.
Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
Instruct on the use of special equipment for daily activities: Instruct on how to use specialised equipment such as wheelchairs and eating aids in their daily activities.
Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
Facilitate healthcare user’s engagement in occupations: Identify meaningful and healthy occupations and strategies in partnership with the healthcare user, to enable him to reach his goals.
Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
Remediate healthcare user’s occupational performance: Remediate or restore the cognitive, sensorimotor, or psychosocial components of the healthcare user`s occupational performance.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of occupational therapy assistant. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
Health care legislation: The patients` rights and responsibilities of health practitioners and the possible repercussions and prosecutions in relation to medical treatment negligence or malpractice.
Orthopaedics: Orthopaedics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
General medicine: General medicine is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
Occupational therapy theories: The fundamental theories that underlie occupational therapy practice, occupation-based models, and frames of reference used in this context.’
Human physiology: The science that studies the human organs and its interactions and mechanisms.
Geriatrics: Geriatrics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
Neurology: Neurology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
Rehabilitation: The methods and procedures used to help an ill or injured person restore lost skills and regain self-sufficiency and control.
Mechanotherapy: The medical treatments provided by manual means such as massage or other types of mechanical devices.
Physical medicine: The diagnosis and treatment methods applied to individuals with physical impairments or disabilities in order to help them restore their body functions lost because of medical injuries or medical diseases.
Kinesiology: The study of human movement, performance and function, the sciences of biomechanics, anatomy, physiology and neuroscience.
First aid: The emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person in the case of circulatory and/or respiratory failure, unconsciousness, wounds, bleeding, shock or poisoning.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of occupational therapy assistant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
Develop a rehabilitation programme: Develop a rehabilitation programme to help patients rebuild their skills and restore their confidence.
Assist in performing physical exercises: Prescribe and assist physical exercises to help increase strength and dexterity.
Perform patient activity analyses: Perform activity analyses of a patient in the sense of linking requirement and ability analyses. Understand the activity, its demands and context.
Record healthcare users’ progress related to treatment: Record the healthcare user’s progress in response to treatment by observing, listening and measuring outcomes.
Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.
Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
Create individual treatment programmes: Develop treatment programmes to suit each individual patient, helping patients achieve more independence and confidence in their daily lives.
Perform occupation analyses: Perform an occupation analysis and assess how an activity is experienced by an individual, taking into account the influence on their performance.
Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
ISCO group and title
2269 – Health professionals not elsewhere classified