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3 Tips For Occupational Therapists Working With OTAs

Everyone knows that OT school is stressful.  A lot of information to taught in a short period of time and it’s the real world application that is skimmed over.

The occupational therapy assistant (OTA) is a necessary position and you may not know what they do. Below are three tips for OTs and OTAs to work together as smoothly as possible. These tips will help you as a new grad transition from the classroom to the clinic, and from student to a manager.

1) It’s All In a Name

It is commonly believed that OTA stands for “occupational therapist assistant”. In fact, it stands for “occupational therapy assistant”. To some, it may be a matter of semantics, but I believe the title of OTA directly supports their role within the healthcare team.

OTAs are a healthcare profession to promote the therapy process, not the therapist. Click to Tweet

The distinction helps emphasize the value of OTAs. If you’re going to be working with OTAs (and you will be), always keep this simple thought in mind!

2) Communication With OTAs

I recommend that OTs and OTAs set up informal meetings on a regular basis. Even if everything is perfect, regular meetings offer a chance to build a relationship for when difficult conversations or work-related matters arise.

Topics for the OT and OTA to consider include:

  • Ensuring collaboration between OT and OTAs
  • Define supervision and how often it should occur
  • How will competency be evaluated

Conversations like these will let the OT and OTA know what to expect of each other. The main difference between the professions is that OTs can complete evaluations, set goals, and make recommendations for discharge. OTs may have to make decisions for a client that was seen by the OTA. It is important for good communication between the two professions to support best practice.

Tip: Be prepared for your interview! Employers will ask you how you collaborate with OTAs when you are being interviewed for a job. You can read more interview tips here

3) Supervision of Clients

This can be tricky for many new grad occupational therapists. It is likely that you will be in charge of “supervising” and signing off on documentation of OTAs that have been working for 20 years.

Therefore, view this as an opportunity to learn new skills and grow as a therapist. As a new grad, you are not expected to know everything there is about OT. If you are having difficulties with supervision, you can always talk to your rehab manager or leave comment and question down below. If you want to learn more about why mentorship is important for new grads, you can watch this video.

Tip: Do your research. Different states have different supervision laws and regulations for occupational therapy assistants. Check with you state OT association for more information.

While it may be intimidating being a “supervisor” straight out of school, remember that the OTA you are working with may be nervous about you as well.

If you have any tips of your own, please leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

About Dominic Lloyd-Randolfi

Dominic Lloyd-Randolfi
Dominic Lloyd-Randolfi is the Publication Director of NewGradOccupationalTherapy.com. He recently graduated from MGH Institute of Health Professions with his doctorate in occupational therapy and works as an acute care OT.

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