Gertrude Robertson Outlines the Various Roles of Occupational Therapists
Occupational therapy is a rewarding career based on holistic, bio-psychosocial, and person-centered care that empowers individuals in recovery and supports patients optimizing their everyday life experience. Occupational therapists can be found working in a number of different fields with clients and patients in every age group from childhood through retirement.
Gertrude Robertson is a Brooklyn-based occupational therapist who advocates for the profession through her work with her clients and by sharing her knowledge and experience with others. For her, the profession is about problem-solving, critical thinking, and bettering lives with compassion and understanding. Luckily, that means many people are suited to it and can find the field that interests them most.
Occupational therapists can be found in corporate settings such as offices. There, their role is making sure that all employees are accommodated in ways that allow them to effectively perform their duties. But, “it is probably not the most common place you might find an occupational therapist,” says Robertson. They are more commonly found in hospitals, working with patients transitioning in and out of hospital care. In a study published in Medical Care Research and Review, researchers found that higher spending on occupational therapy was the only category that directly lowered rates of hospital readmission. “That is because occupational therapists identify pain points for patients returning home after a hospital stay and work with that patient to mitigate distress,” says Robertson. For example, basic self-care routines for patients who have experienced strokes or brain injuries can become unbearable. But with the right techniques, environment adaptations, and services, these struggles can be neutralized.
Occupational therapists also work with families with members with disabilities. That can mean working with children with autism, for example. An occupational therapist would visit the family and design a plan for the child to cope with his or her school environment, their home chores, and even extend to developing strategies for building and managing social relationships. Gertrude Robertson says that disabilities can, of course, also be found in older adults. Perhaps someone has experienced an injury in a car accident and requires new strategies for performing everyday tasks such as commuting to work. Or, perhaps the patient is a veteran experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and requires support in an out-patient program for mental health.
Another common place you can find occupational therapist is in nursing homes or related facilities such as long-term care and rehabilitation centers. Occupational therapy is not limited to hospitals and private practices. In these environments, therapists can build long-term relationships with their clients and adapt their plan of care over several months to years. In any environment where clients or patients may experience a fundamental change in their ability to interact with their world in the way they always had, an occupational therapist can surely be found.
“The variety of work an occupational therapist can specialize in is truly extensive,” says Robertson, who has colleagues in every branch of society. One of Gertrude Robertson’s passions is health advocacy and educating the public on the services an occupational therapist can provide. “Some people might make assumptions about the type of work an occupational therapist does, but I want them to be open-minded. The level of creative problem-solving an occupational therapist brings to the table is unmatched,” she says, which is why you can find occupational therapists in every field of health care, in corporations, insurance companies, and even branches of government.