Too many times when I introduce myself and explain the role of occupational therapy (OT) to a patient they say, “but I don’t need that, I’m not an invalid.” Aside from the dastardly use of a negative word to describe a person with a handicap, I severely dislike this statement because it very accurately portrays the complete misunderstanding of OT in that it purports the idea that OTs see people with no rehab potential.
I always want to say, “DUH. I’m here to see you because you can be independent.” However, it is usually these same people who then wave me off to say, ” Oh no, I don’t need to learn to use that equipment. My wife/husband will just do it (usually ADLs) for me.”
Too many times I hear, “I just went for a walk.” Yes, you did. With PHYSICAL THEARAPY, which I just said. How many times do I have to repeat OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY to you?
Too many times, as soon as I enter a patient room and have just finished introducing myself and my role, a family member will call the patient to whom the patient will say, “I can’t talk right now the physical therapist is here to see me.” I appreciate the courtesy but again, I’m not PT.
Too many times I hear, “Wait what do you mean you can work with children and babies too, don’t you just work with old people?”
Too many times I hear my dad say, ” My daughter is a physiotherapist”- because he knows I’m not a PT, but he doesn’t understand the word/ remember “occupational” therapist.
Just yesterday during a girls’ night out my friends and I were talking about how our parents/ society in general does not understand what we do for our careers, and we were laughing about how people probably get really confused because they wonder why OTs need a degree to teach people ADLs. This is such a sad thought, but I bet its true.
Clearly, OTs need to work on their personal brand. I want people to know exactly what I do and respect that, instead of looking at me blankly when I introduce myself as an OT. No matter how hard I try to explain what I do in social settings, nobody understands it- and most people don’t care to ask questions to clarify either. All they know is that I’m someone who takes care of other people, just another medical professional.
I hope to create at least a personal brand of myself as an OT that people can understand and embrace: No, I don’t work with “invalids,” I work with people. Young, old, sick and healthy, I work with them all. I teach a baby to hold his head up and move his mouth to feed. I teach a new amputee how to use his new prosthesis and how to do without. I help children and parents alike when I facilitate sensory integration for a child who becomes overstimulated easily and is seen as a “problem child.” I ease people’s concerns about going home and doing their routine after surgery. I help people be stronger mentally, physically, emotionally. I do occupational therapy.