What makes an amazing OT

What makes an amazing Occupational Therapist?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to write this post, but I thought it might be helpful for anyone looking to grow.

I think being great at anything requires the ability to distance yourself from fear.  That might include fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of conformity. 

To that thought, I’d like to talk about how to become an amazing OT.

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Being client centered

I’ve noticed that the best occupational therapists are great, because they focus on the patient and not the diagnosis. Being client centered is all about seeing the patient for who they really are. This also includes tailoring a treatment approach around the patient goals rather than the goals of the therapist.

For example some therapists will only work on activities such as dressing, bathing, grooming/hygiene, and other ADLs. But if the patient doesn’t understand how ADLs relate to their problems, they won’t be motivated to participate.

I once saw a therapist who was working with a patient who just had an amputated leg. The patient was experiencing horrific pain, anxiety, and depression. The therapist decided it was best to not work on ADLs, and instead the therapist spent her treatment time listening to the patient and providing encouragement.

Too often occupational therapist focus on the occupation or activity rather than listening to their patients and learning their wants desires and needs. When we truly understand our patients and who they are, we become client centered and help others live more fulfilling lives.

You might say, I can’t bill for listening, and while that’s true you don’t have to listen for an hour. Spending an extra 5-10 minutes with a patient won’t ruin your productivity for the day.

OT can also listen and then discuss the treatment plan, safety at home, compensatory techniques, home exercise programs and other self care education to be able to bill for that valuable time spent with the patient.

With patient care, listening is everything, and being a good listener is how we develop good rapport with our client’s and see them for who they really are.

Making activities meaningful

Great OTs make hair treatment sessions meaningful and engaging.

You know the activity is meaningful when the patient wants to participate, so pick an activity that the patient wants to do!

Making activities meaningful can be challenging especially when patients aren’t showing interest. I wrote another post all about how to help you and your patients become more engaged with therapy here.

Seek to know your patients hobbies or life goals. For instances, you might say, “Think about the future and imagine you’re happy. What happened that made you happy?”

After they reply, think of ways you can help your patient reach their goals to becoming happy. Give them ideas related to what they can do now to reach their long term goals.

It’s not easy do make your treatment approach meaningful, but it will make all the difference. Making therapy meaningful is about really caring and seeking to know your patients. 

This may seem exhausting, but helping others feel that their lives are more meaningful will help you feel that your life is more meaningful. And it’s a helpful way to avoid burnout. 

The best OTs think of ways to make therapy more meaningful.

Taking on Responsibility

Have you ever been around a person who blames others for their problems. This might include blaming the healthcare system, blaming their boss, or blaming coworkers for problems in the workplace.

When we blame others we become the victim and give our power away. When we are the creator of our circumstances and take responsibility we have more choices and become empowered. 

Responsibility causes us to become the creator of our circumstances. When we are responsible, we seek to solve problems on our own.

I’ve noticed that when Occupational Therapists take this approach they make a difference in their lives and the lives of others. Rather than blaming the system, organization, or other employees, they seek to understand the problem and how they might create change or lead others to create change.

When we take responsibility, rather than wait for the responsibility to fall on others, we meet everyone’s needs.

Helping others

Helping others goes along with responsibility, but I want to mention it, because it’s so important. Sometimes our jobs get a little messy, and it’s easy to ask a nurse or CNA to do it.

Instead of asking for someone to do their job, ask if they need help. I’ve noticed when I help someone, they notice and they become more willing to help me when I need it.

Helping others goes full circle. When you provide help, you receive help in return.

Finding ways to grow

The best OTs are always looking to be challenged and grow. They look at the latest research, courses, and are constantly learning how to be better therapists.

They may have noticed that some of their patients have weak pelvic muscles and decide to take a course to educate their patient’s on exercises to improve bowel and bladder function.

They may see patients struggling with depression and anxiety and take a course on mindfulness.

Great OTs also find ways to challenge themselves. They find opportunities to be educators or look for challenging problems to solve.

Finding ways to grow is fundamental to the profession of Occupational Therapy. When we grow, it’s easier to not become focused on the daily issues that cause burnout. It also helps us to feel that we’re doing something meaningful.

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There’s a million ways to be an amazing OT. As we act with care and responsibility we can make all the difference and be the change we want to see in occupational therapy.

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