Occupational therapy support worker
Occupational therapy support workers work with occupational therapists. They offer practical support to help people overcome problems in carrying out day-to-day activities (occupations) of their lives.
This page has information on the role of the occupational therapy support worker, including entry requirements and skills needed.
Occupational therapy (OT) support workers work under the supervision of registered occupational therapists. As part of the OT team, OT support workers offer practical support to help people overcome problems in carrying out day-to-day activities (occupations) of their lives.
Illness, injury, disability or ageing can make ordinary tasks harder to do. This includes daily care (washing, dressing, eating), work or education and leisure. The OT team help people find ways to continue with activities which are important to them. This might involve learning new ways to do things. Or it might mean changes to the environment to make things easier.
OT support workers work with people of all ages and situations with a range of conditions. For example, helping
- someone adapt to life after major surgery such as a hip replacement
- children with disabilities take part in school and play activities
- dementia sufferers develop strategies
- stroke patients
- people suffering from mental illness get back into everyday activities such as work or volunteering
- elderly people stay in their own homes by providing adaptation such as level access showers or stairlifts
OT support workers may help people to use aids and equipment, including assistive technology. Assistive technology helps profoundly disabled people communicate, use IT, get about and control household services and equipment (lights, TV, etc).
OT support workers may also be known as
- OT assistants
- rehabilitation assistants
- technical instructors/OT technicians
OT support workers can be based in hospitals, clinics and GP practices. They may also visit patients in their homes or in residential or care homes.
There are no set entry requirements for OT support workers. Employers expect good numeracy and literacy and some experience or qualifications in health or social care. Employers may ask for GCSEs in English and maths. They may ask for a BTEC or equivalent vocational qualifications in health and social care.
Employers often ask for relevant work experience. Even where this is not specified, it would be an advantage if you have worked in health or social care, either in paid employment or voluntary work. If you secure an apprenticeship in healthcare/clinical support, this could enable you to apply for OT support worker vacancies in the future.
Skills and personal characteristics needed
As an OT support worker, you need to be
- able to motivate people
- accepting of other people’s lifestyles
- willing to work with people from all walks of life
- happy to talk to and work with groups
- willing to travel
- able to work in a team but use their own initiative
- able to follow procedures
- able to deal with people with challenging behaviour
You also need
- very good communication skills
- customer care skills
- organisational skills
Training and development
You will receive appropriate training in order to do the job, including an introduction to the department and its procedures and how to set up and use the equipment.
You may be offered the chance to study for qualifications such as
- the CACHE level 2 Certificate in Healthcare Support Services
- the CACHE level 2 or 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support
Some OT support workers join the British Association and College of Occupational Therapists (BAOT/COT) as associate members. The BAOT/COT runs courses, conferences and seminars where OT support workers can update their skills and network with others doing similar work.
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OT support workers working in the NHS are paid on the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. You will typically start on AfC band 2 or 3. After further training and experience, you can apply for more senior posts at band 4. Most OT support workers in the NHS work standard hours which are likely to be around 37.5 a week. They may work some evenings or weekends.
Terms and conditions will usually be different for clinical support staff working outside of the NHS.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
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Most NHS trusts advertise their vacancies on NHS Jobs. Some advertise on their own websites. You can find a list of NHS organisations on NHS Choices. Apprenticeships are advertised on NHS Jobs and the Gov.uk website
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the NHS values apply in your everyday work.
Opportunities also exist with local authorities, community interest companies and charities.
Local authorities advertise their vacancies on the Local Government Jobs website
You could also find vacancies in the health sector by searching in local newspapares and using the Universal Jobmatch tool
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