Occupational Therapy: How Communication is a Key to Success




Julie Smith is a COTA (Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant) working at Fyzical Therapy and Balance Center of Ruston, LA. As a COTA Julie works with patients in an outpatient clinic, helping them through the rehabilitation process. Julie has over 2 years’ experience as a COTA and taught yoga classes prior to getting her degree.


COTA Julie Smith with a patient


Choosing Occupational Therapy as a Career

Julie first attended Louisiana Tech for her prerequisites, then received her associate degree from the University of Louisiana Monroe. Julie had to get specific licensure from the Louisiana Board of Medical Examiners to be able to practice. When asked what aspect of this job led her to pursue a career in occupational therapy Julie saidI enjoy helping people regain the ability to perform activities of daily living.” Julie believes that this job is rewarding because she can see the progress a patient makes before and after therapy. Occupational Therapy is also a great field to consider for job security. Due to the increasing age of the baby boomer population (the largest generation group) job security is at an all-time high.

Communication in a Clinical Setting

Communication is an important aspect of any job but in a clinical setting it is often the key to success. Julie says “Connecting with patients, working with co-workers and insurance companies are all affected by communication.” There can be serious consequences if communication is not effective. For example if a therapist is not good at conveying what they want the patients to do, exercises can be done improperly and result in an injury. A therapist must be able to connect with patients on a social level as well. Julie says “Yes! I have always been a people person.” However having good communication and social skills is something that you can work on and with experience become more comfortable doing. When I asked Julie for any advice she may have for communicating effectively she said “be straightforward and honest”. Sometimes telling people things they don’t want to hear can be difficult. In the end it will benefit both parties involved and you will gain their respect.

Role of Written Communication in Occupational Therapy

Regarding written communication there are several ways that it plays an important role in occupational therapy. When asked what types of technical writing Julie does on a day to day basis she said “I have to take progress notes, make emails to doctors and insurance companies, plan exercises, and evaluations.”  Neglect of communicating properly through written text can have major repercussions. If insurance companies do not get accurate progress notes they may refuse payment. Without payment the patient may not receive treatment that they desperately need. There is a lot of paper work that couples the other responsibilities of an occupational therapist. Julie explained that she has a couple of hours of paper work to do a day which contributes to approximately 1/4 of her overall workload.

Technology’s Effect on Communication

New technologies are constantly being developed and can change the way certain jobs are performed. I asked Julie how technology has impacted her job, her response was “Exercise lists can be uploaded online (other therapists have access) and modified, Notes are easier to file, and I can print pictures or show videos of exercises that may be difficult for patients to comprehend”. These are just a few examples of how technology has made improvements in a clinical setting.  Therapist must be able to adapt and incorporate new technologies to stay ahead of the curve.


Guest Blogger, Nicholas Yarborough





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