Nav: Home | Inst. | Burs. | Careers
Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapy is an exciting and challenging profession because each patient has individual requirements and the treatment needs are constantly changing. Occupational therapy is a constantly developing profession.

Occupational therapists are unique members of the health team. They enable people of all ages to function within their physical, psychological and social limitations and to regain or maintain their maximum potential with regard to personal care, work and leisure.

They are concerned with people who are treated through active participation in purposeful activities in order to enable them to regain their health, return to their community and to enjoy quality of life. These therapists use a problem-solving approach by first scientifically assessing patients' physical and mental abilities. In this way problems that may affect the way in which patients are able to care for themselves, hold down a job, attend school or participate in games or sport and utilize their leisure time, are identified.

Treatment plans are specifically designed for patients, taking into account their individual needs and backgrounds. Activities are chosen for their potential to help each patient reach predetermined treatment objectives. Thus, the patients contribute to their own recovery by becoming actively involved. In the case of permanent disability, patients are taught how to use their remaining skills.

Sometimes occupational therapists need to make suggestions with regard to adaptations to patients' living and working environments, or to provide them with adapted devices to enable them to function more independently. These therapists can also play a preventative role through treatment programmes in deprived communities.

Programmes may be devised for the improvement of physical functions such as power and dexterity of the hands; improvement of mental health, such as social adaptability; improvement in self-care, self-management and personal independence; and promotion of the normal development in a sick or disabled person.

Occupational therapists use everyday activities as a treatment medium. Activities include personal management activities, work activities, recreational activities and play activities. The tools and equipment used are in accordance with each activity.

The main aim of occupational therapy is to help a person to regain self-confidence and to be able to act independently in spite of physical, psychological and social limitations.

Satisfying Aspects
- working with people
- variety and challenge of the work
- reward of seeing disadvantaged and disabled individuals improve their skills
- opportunities for initiative, innovation and creativity in problem-solving

Demanding aspects
- poor remuneration
- lack of recognition from the public and other professions
- dealing with depressed patients

An occupational therapist should:
- have a highly developed sense of responsibility;
- be sensitive and have empathy;
- have emotional stability;
- be patient and have perseverance;
- have a good sense of humour;
- have a desire to work with people;
- be willing to get involved with disabled people;
- possess good health and physical stamina;
- be creative and have original ideas for problem-solving;
- be practical and have manual dexterity.

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences, Visual Arts, Music

Degree: BOccupational Therapy or BSc (Occupational Therapy) - UKZN, US, UL, UP, UCT, UFS, UWC, Wits. The duration of the course is 4 years.

Prospective students as well as qualified occupational therapists must register with the Interim Medical and Dental Council of South Africa. The Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa promotes the interests of the profession.

- General hospitals
- Psychiatric hospitals
- Special schools for physically disabled children
- Special schools for children with behavioural and learning problems
- Homes for the aged
- Training centres for the mentally handicapped
- Non-governmental organisations
- Universities
- Specialized units such as workmen's rehabilitation units
- Welfare organisations
- Self-employment, in own private practice

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-9300 Fax: (012) 328-5120

Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa
P O Box 1695
Hatfield, 0028
Tel: (012) 365 1327 Fax: (086) 651 5438