Four Traits of High Performing Occupational Therapists

April is National Occupational Therapy Month. Occupational Therapy is a unique profession in that its main focus is improving the quality of life of patients through the therapeutic use of daily activities, not just correcting the patient’s injury or eliminating their illness or disorder. We all know occupational therapists around the country and world who have changed the lives of many individuals, but what are the common characteristics that these individuals all share?

1. Outstanding Communication Skills

Occupational therapists spend a great deal of their day communicating with others. Whether this be with physicians, therapists or other healthcare professionals to coordinate care on the healthcare team or with patients themselves, occupational therapists must be able to articulate themselves clearly, efficiently and confidently via all avenues. Occupational therapists must be able to listen to their patients regarding their concerns, symptoms, and goals for treatment. They must also be able to communicate complex medical terms, home exercises programs, procedures, and symptoms in a way that any client can understand, regardless of age, diagnosis or cognitive ability. Occupational therapists must also be able to listen, speak, and provide professional and clear communication to doctors, co-workers and all other professionals on a patient’s healthcare team.

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2. Lots of Patience

Every occupational therapist has experienced a time when a client was less than pleasant and kept a smile on their face throughout the exchange. A great occupational therapist understands that many of their clients are undergoing a variety of disabilities and challenges, making some of them rude, frustrated or impatient. A great occupational therapist listens to their clients with patience, empathy, smiles, and maybe even a little humor throughout their time together. Additionally, while some clients may meet their goals quickly, it may take years for a different client to make the same progress. Occupational therapists come up with creative and progressive treatment strategies to continue to motivate their clients towards their goals.

3. Creative Problem Solving Skills

Creative problem solving is at the heart of every successful occupational therapist. Every client an occupational therapist interacts with has different goals, different problems, different fears and different motivations, which means every client requires different strategies. Often times, a treatment session plan requires spur of the moment adaptations based on available equipment, or a client’s ability or mood. The best OTs must be constantly thinking on their feet to make sure each session pushes their clients to their maximum potential.

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4. Superb Organizational Skills

Occupational therapists have a lot of things to manage: their schedules, client’s goals, appointments, and meetings with other professionals, just to name a few. On top of that, they must ensure that they complete all required documentation in a clear, concise and timely manner. Some occupational therapists are even in charge of keeping track of insurance authorization expirations and reevaluation due dates, depending on the setting. Regardless, it’s important for a good occupational therapist to be organized and thorough in order to ensure that their clients are getting the highest quality of care and that no detail, big or small, is being overlooked.

These are just a few of the characteristics that make for a great occupational therapist. What about you? What else do you think makes for a great occupational therapist? Let’s start a discussion in the comments below!


Jenna Coe, OTR, MOT, C/NDT

Jenna Coe

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