While some paramedical fields have seen an increase in the number of professional graduates over the last two decades, some emerging fields in the allied health sector are facing a shortage of qualified practitioners. One such is Occupational Therapy (OT). While it is estimated that we require around 28,000 Occupational Therapists in India, we have only around half the number. This is true of foreign countries as well. Around 46 countries have listed a shortage of qualified OTs.
What it involves
The human body is an engineering marvel. But when things go wrong, people face barriers in performing their daily and routine activities. An OT helps patients overcome these disabilities and perform regular tasks such as reading, writing, laundry, self-care, play, and so on. Their intervention boosts the patients’ independence and satisfaction in all aspects of life. They learn to cope with existing disabilities and issues if a permanent cure is not possible. An OT helps such patients integrate better with the family and society at large.
The basic traits that make one a successful OT are empathy, patience, and a penchant for innovation. This field is perfect for those who want to help change or improve the lives of those who are permanently or temporarily disabled. OTs may work in rehabilitation centres with a multidisciplinary team including physiotherapists, orthotists and prosthetists, speech therapists, and psychologists. Other options are working in hospitals, home care programmes, special schools, geriatric centres, and old-age homes, associate themselves with NGOs or establishing a private practice or work as educators..
The undergraduate Bachelor of Occupational Therapy is a four-year programme with six months of internship. However, it is offered only in a few institutions in India. The Master’s programme is a two-year one, except in AIIPMR, Nashik, where the duration is three years. Some national institutes that offer these courses are SVNIRTAR in Cuttack, Odisha; NILD, Kolkata, West Bengal; NIEPMD, Chennai, Tamil Nadu; and PDUNIPPD, Delhi. A Common Entrance Test (CET) is conducted for admission to the UG and PG courses.
While there are a few other institutions (both government and private) that offer courses, it is advisable to check the list of accredited institutions on the AIOTA website. In India, a UG degree is sufficient to practise as an independent OT but some other countries insist on a PG degree. All countries also have their respective national certification exams for licensing.
The writer is career counsellor and senior resource person, Centre for Information and Guidance India. firstname.lastname@example.org