JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
April is Occupational Therapy Month and honors a profession that helps people to accomplish the everyday tasks they need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities.
Occupational therapists often work with people with disabilities, injuries, and mental illnesses to help get patients back on track to their everyday lives, from learning to walk to strength recovery, among other daily tasks.
Occupational therapy assistants, or OTAs, help people who struggle with everyday tasks by providing a treatment to improve motor skills, balance, and coordination. OTAs can help anyone at any stage of life and work in settings such as skilled nursing facilities, school systems, children’s clinics, rehabilitation facilities and orthopedics.
Dating back to 100 B.C., used by Greek physicians Asclepiades and Celsus, occupational therapy was once used for the treatment of patients with emotional and mental disorders. Recommended therapy would include travel, therapeutic massages, exercise, conversation and music to soothe the mind.
“Occupational Therapy Month is a time when we can share the awesome work that we do and showcase that OT is here and we can help no matter the issue; from healing wounds and recovering strength, to finding new hobbies and new work interests,” said Staff Sgt. William Cox, an instructor in the occupational therapy program at the Medical and Education Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
“It is a time to not only let the community know who we are but it also provides awareness to other health care providers by allowing them to offer another resource to their clinics that could help patients in their recovery,” he added.
The METC OTA program trains Army and Navy students to become occupational therapy assistants. The eight-month-long program is broken down into two phases.
In phase one, the students are in the schoolhouse learning general studies of occupational therapy and the required skills needed to be an occupational therapy assistant. Students also get to practice skills in practical labs and testing.
In phase two, the students will work in two different clinical settings putting their skills and knowledge to the test in local hospitals and clinics around the city and around the country.
After graduation, active duty Army students are assigned to a medical treatment facility, or MTF, or a Holistic Health and Fitness unit while National Guard and Reserve students go back to their hometowns and begin working as OTAs.
Navy students are assigned to inpatient/ outpatient MTFs. Navy OTAs are also stationed at overseas MTFs providing school-related services as part of the Education Developmental Intervention Services team.
“Our program is nationally accredited and graduates of the program earn an associate degree from the Uniformed Services University as well the privilege to sit on the national board for certification as an OTA,” stated Cox.
Spc. Zachary Berdan, an Army student in the program, said that he was more than happy that he chose occupational therapy as a career field.
“This field grabbed me because I wanted to help people recover,” he said. “What I enjoy most about the training is that there hasn't been a block of instruction that I thought was boring or unnecessary.”
Berdan added that all of the instruction has intrigued him, even inspiring him to do more research in his free time.
“I have been learning how emotionally and spiritually rewarding occupational therapy can be.”