What do Occupational Therapy Assistants do in rural hospitals…

My name is Jessica and I work for a rural hospital system in Texas, USA. I have been a practicing Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) for two years now. I work in various areas within our system which has given me valued experience ranging from acute care, inpatient rehab, and outpatient services.

What does an average day look like for me?

Since this summer, I have been struggling with my own mental health, so I value every minute of sleep I can get before getting ready for the day. So this looks like me rolling out of bed fifteen minutes before I need to be out the door in the morning. Once I show up to one of the hospitals or clinics for the day, I print off my schedule or write down the patients I need to see and start my chart reviews. Varying on which facility I am covering that day I may have anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes to prepare for the day before I start patient care. I will also check with my supervising OT to see if there is anything specific I need to review or any education that needs to be covered with specific patients. Once I’ve done that I will check to see if they are receiving Physical Therapy (PT) services. If they are and the PT or PTA is available, I will check in with them and see if they have any new updates or if they are wanting carryover on specific tasks. If I am in one of the hospitals for the day I will check in with their nurse to make sure there are no new status updates and to ensure they are cleared to work with me. I always go into a patient’s room with a couple different treatment ideas in mind because you never know what you will be met with once you walk into the room. Sometimes a patient wants to work on a specific task or activity that day, other times I have to get creative to get them to engage in therapy, and some days they are compliant and agreeable to whatever I had in mind. If I am in outpatient for the day I will continue with the exercises and activities the patient has engaged in from their previous session and grade those tasks appropriately based on their current functional status and engagement.

One thing I always include in my treatments is humour. I know for me personally humour and laughter can help turn my days around. If I can make someone’s day just a little bit brighter than I know I’ve done more than just the minimum my job requires.

Once lunch rolls around I take the first 15-30 minutes to document and complete as many notes as possible. If I’m really hungry that day I will take lunch first and then get back to my computer. As I mentioned, my mental health has been a battle the last few months so if the weather is nice, I will find somewhere outside to eat my lunch, disconnect, and recharge for the rest of my day. I’ve found it helps to clear my head and help me reset. If I’m at one of the hospitals for the day and my patients are appropriate, I will take them outside if they are agreeable. I can only imagine how they must feel being stuck in a hospital room all day with the hopes of having one maybe two visitors if their family or friends are willing and able to come. The fresh air, sunshine, and a little bit of laughter seems to help their overall mood and more times than not facilitate their engagement. At the very least I can use it as a bargaining tool to increase their participation and engagement.

After I’ve seen my patients for the day, I spend fifteen minutes upwards to an hour finishing my documentation, checking emails, and printing my final reports for the day. I will update my supervising OT on any patients as needed and clock out. On my drive home, I focus on my current mental health needs. Some days this looks like me singing along to music, making a phone call to a friend or family member, and other days driving home in total silence as to process and spend time with my thoughts. Since March, it has been a little more difficult to stay motivated at work but my patients that significantly need the assistance, are willing to put the work in, and are appreciative of what I help them accomplish make it all worth it. So does having an awesome team of therapists to work alongside helping out in both my work and personal life.

Author: Jessica.

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