Duties and responsibilities
A pediatric occupational therapist is an occupational therapist who focuses on helping children develop the skills they need to grow into functional, independent adults. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Assessing, planing, implementing and evaluating treatment plans in hospital and community settings
- Establishing realistic goals for children to meet in order to improve their physical, mental and social health
- Liaising with other healthcare professionals and with the patients’ families, teachers, carers and employers
- Keeping patient records written and up-to-date
- Writing reports and care plans and attend multidisciplinary case meetings to plan and review ongoing treatment
- Referring patients to other specialists where needed
- Organise support and rehabilitation groups for carers and patients
- Training new students and supervising the work of occupational therapy assistants
- Completing administrative tasks such as patient and budgetary records.
Occupational therapists will need a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as biology and physiology. A master’s degree in occupational therapy allows aspiring occupational therapists to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, part of the American Occupational Therapy Association. To get a place on a masters programme, you should aim to have experience working in an occupational setting.
Occupational therapists can then take further training to specialize in pediatrics.
Skills and relevant work experience
As well as having the physical stamina to be on their feet all day, pediatric occupational therapists need skills such as:
- Problem solving skills, as pediatric occupational therapists will have to help children solve the problems and overcome issues with treatment programmes
- Patience, as working with children with illness and disease can be a slow and frustrating process, especially when they are being difficult
- Compassion and empathy, as working with children requires a deep understanding of their needs and concerns
- Communication skills, as pediatric occupational therapists will need to communicate their ideas to patients and keep written documents up to date
- Adaptability, as pediatric occupational therapists will need to be flexible when treating patients because patients will respond differently to different therapies
Pediatric occupational therapists tend to work full time and they may have to work nights or weekends to accommodate to their patients schedule. They may spend time travelling from one job to another and spend a lot of their day on their feet, lifting and moving patients or heavy equipment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for occupational therapists was $84,950 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $56,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $121,490.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 18 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Pediatric occupational therapists can progress to have more responsibility, such as managing a team of occupational therapists.