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Occupational therapy: Rising demand for occupational therapists

Occupational therapy is becoming an attractive career option for youth as awareness of the importance of wellness and well-being spreads worldwide.

It offers the prospect of rendering conscience-lightening service to humanity and getting paid for it! Little wonder occupational therapy (OT) is becoming an attractive career option for youth, as awareness of the importance of wellness and well-being spreads worldwide.

Occupational therapists help individuals with mental or physical illness/disabilities attain the highest level of efficiency and wellness possible in their daily lives. In short, an occupational therapist is a skilled professional who helps challenged people to achieve independence in all facets of their lives, including performance of normal daily activities related to work, play, leisure etc. These services are provided individually, to groups, or through social welfare systems so that a wide spectrum of people including those with work-related injuries can benefit.

Admission into OT degree courses is after Plus Two in science (physics, chemistry, maths, and biology). The four-year bachelor of occupational therapy (BOTH) degree programme is offered by several medical colleges across the country:

Government Medical College, Nagpur
Lokmanya Tilak Medical College, Mumbai
Topiwala National Medical College, Mumbai
Christian Medical College, Vellore
G.S. Seth Medical College, Mumbai
SRM Institute of Medical Science and Research, Chennai
Santosh College of Occupational Therapy, Chennai
Santosh World Medical Academy, Ghaziabad
KMCH College of Occupational Therapy, Coimbatore
Manipal University, Manipal

Some colleges admit students on the basis of Plus Two cut off percentages whereas others conduct a common entrance test.

The syllabus is an admixture of inputs from medicine, surgery, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, psychiatry, psychology, and orthopaedics combined with occupational therapy, ergonomics, and a foundation course in research methodology. After four years, students have to undergo a six-month internship comprising a full-time clinically oriented training programme. Postgraduate and diploma study programmes in occupational therapy are offered by the All India Institute of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Mumbai; Manipal University of Health Education; Indian Institute of Health Education and Research, Bihar; Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi; and National Institute of Rehabilitation Training & Research, Cuttack.

MULTIPLIED DEMAND- With occupational therapy acknowledged as an essential component of contemporary health services, theres no dearth of employment in private and public healthcare institutions. Mindset and attitudinal changes in schools, industry, and communities have multiplied the demand for well-qualified occupational therapists who are needed in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, special and integrated schools, vocational rehab workshops, paediatric and neonatal clinics, infirmaries, geriatric nursing homes, hospices, child guidance clinics, de-addiction centres, prosthetic limb training centres, and industry.

Alternatively, they can practice privately in their own clinics or in conjunction with other medical specialists. Even in government institutions start-up pay packages are Rs.13,000–15,000 per month. In private practice and industry, earnings are substantially higher.

The demand for therapists is rising phenomenally. While 10 years ago people did not have the awareness of the need to engage a therapist to treat long-term chronic problems, these days patients are ready to follow therapists advice. Moreover as a growing number of people in industry — from sectors as varied as chemical industries and BPO units among others — suffer injuries from repetitive activities and poor posture, urban India is experiencing a growing need for occupational therapists.

With only 20 graduate programmes spread over institutions in nine states, the number of qualified occupational therapists is grossly disproportionate to the growing number of patients suffering from stress disorders and disabilities. We need many more occupational therapists,” says Pratibha Rege who heads the OT department of the All India Institute of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (AIIPM&R), Mumbai.

A graduate of the G.S. Seth Medical College, Mumbai where she completed her B.Sc (occupational therapy) degree programme in 1972, Rege signed up with AIIPM&R in 1973 as an occupational therapist. A decade later she was awarded a Masters by the institute.

Promoted in 1955 with technical expertise and manpower support from the United Nations, AIIPM&R heralded medical rehabilitation in India. The institute, which functions under the Director General of Health Services, Union ministry of health and family welfare, is a teaching hospital. Apart from treating patients, it offers postgraduate programmes in occupational therapy including a four-week postgrad certificate course in rehabilitation (PGCR), a one-year diploma in rehabilitation for occupational therapy (DROT), and a three-year Master of occupational therapy (MOTH) study programme.

With eight therapists working with her, Rege is deeply involved in the institutes community programmes and derives immense satisfaction from her chosen vocation, which offers opportunities to serve people and apply new knowledge. We train care-givers and family members to look at patients disabilities in a positive way so that they can become healthy and productive. Its a noble and rewarding profession, greatly valued in India and abroad,” says Rege.

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