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Other OT-Related Information Less physically demanding health care career?

Discussion in 'Occupational Therapy [ O.T.D ]' started by ilovemn, Oct 28, 2014.

  1. ilovemn


    Feb 2, 2014
    I am currently a sophomore at a small private college working on a degree in Biology. Careers that I'm currently considering are OT, PT, and Orthotist/Prosthetist. My biggest concern with these jobs, however, is the physical demand. I have Charcot Marie Tooth, which results in poor balance, muscle weakness, pain, and fatigue. I am not as affected at this point in my life (19 years old), but I'm concerned that it could progress and it would become more and more difficult to perform the duties that these careers entail. CMT is one of the reasons that I'm interested in the health care field, but it's also causing me a great deal of anxiety.

    Anyway, my question is, to those who have one of these careers, is there a great deal of physical demand involved that might be more difficult for me in the long run? I know I need to start getting in more volunteer/shadowing hours soon to get experience, but any input is really helpful.

    Also, I'm open to any other ideas of less physically demanding healthcare careers that I could look in to.

    Thank you all! I greatly appreciate it!
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  3. Toby Tulsa

    Toby Tulsa 5+ Year Member

    Jan 12, 2012
    look into speech-language pathology
  4. gialuan

    gialuan 7+ Year Member

    Nov 17, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    If you work with adults, you will be required to lift patients on occasion. You won't be expected to walk with someone who is densely hemiparetic but you may have to move them from bed to chair, etc. You can work in an outpatient or hand clinic where all of your patients come to you and will most likely have upper extremity injuries that require less strength to treat. But to be honest, ranging an arm alone is equally as tiring! You can also work with kids. I'm not sure how the school setting is structured, but if you're in a sensory gym you'll be doing lots of running and chasing.
  5. resot

    resot 5+ Year Member

    Nov 6, 2011
    Outpatient clinics also see patients like TBI/Stroke. So you may still be transferring people. Even in a specialized hand clinic, you will have the occasional stroke patient with spastic and stiff joints that take a good amount of strength to range. Or patients who have shoulder injuries. (Ranging fingers can be easy, but shoulders can make you sweat.)

    If you decide to work with kids, the school district will be your best bet (although some schools have sensory gyms set up on their campuses). Otherwise, like gialuan stated, you will definitely be chasing kids while they run circles around you.

    If you're really determined, there's ways to get around the weakness and fatigue (maybe work parttime only?) But I would be concerned about the poor balance part. If you are assisting a client (adult or child) who is requiring mod-max-total assist (because of weakness, poor motor planning, decreased coordination, poor safety awareness... the list goes on and on), having a therapist with (at least) decent balance is crucial for both the client and therapist's safety.
  6. ilovemn


    Feb 2, 2014
    Thank you for your responses! I did a little research into speech-language pathology, but I don't think that's the way I want to go. I am not affected in my upper extremities/hands at all (I have been playing piano for most of my life), so I was wondering about specializing in hand therapy, as gialuan had mentioned. Resot, the point that you made about the safety of the client is a big part of my concern. Is hand therapy a difficult field to be in (both physically and academically)? Just out of curiosity.


    Sep 1, 2014
    Is there an OT school locally to you? You can ask to make an appointment with someone in the department to better advise you. Individuals with disabilities can receive "reasonable" accommodations. There are however "essential job functions" which individuals would need to perform with or without accommodations. This would apply to fieldwork as well as your future employment. But again the key term is reasonable.
    I know many OTs with disabilities of varying degrees so it is a possibility for you for the future. Once you get out into the field depending on your physical abilities you can work in an outpatient setting, hand therapy, a mental health setting, community based doesn't have to be a physically demanding setting. The issue is getting through fieldwork which has different requirements to demonstrate competency. Again speaking with someone in an OT department would be a good start. Good luck!
    lcs2074 likes this.
  8. alg5443

    alg5443 2+ Year Member

    Jul 16, 2013
    I was just reading an AOTA article on this topic so I thought I would respond. The article is called "ensuring a diverse workforce, fieldwork success for occupational therapy students with disabilities" if you are interested in checking it out. But the short answer is if OT turns out to be your passion once you shadow and look more into the field, absolutely go for it. Like people have said previously, there are other less physically demanding areas of OT if this becomes something you want/need later on. I also know students with disabilities in OT school and they are doing great. :)
    lcs2074 likes this.
  9. ilovemn


    Feb 2, 2014
    Thank you! I'm determined to find this article now, but I'm struggling. I'm sure I'll find it eventually. :) I'll just keep pushing to keep myself strong and healthy, and if I do become an OT and one day cannot perform the proper duties, who knows? Maybe I'll get into education or research. Goodness, there's so many possibilities! Thank you for all for your support!

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