In the past, nursing homes were largely regarded as an elderly person’s final residence. After living a long and independent life and then suffering a debilitating injury or chronic illness that compromises their independence, it was generally accepted that the person would be more than happy to spend the rest of the life in a state of peaceful rest and relaxation, playing cards in the community room and having their every personal need are taken care of. This may all change with the aging baby boomers. As the need for occupational therapy in nursing homes grows, you’ll often find that this career path is rewarding both financially and emotionally. Below we’ll look at the role of occupational therapy in nursing homes as well as the importance of the career. Let’s take a look!
Occupational Therapy in Nursing Homes
A Growing Field
The reality is that about 20% of OTs work in a skilled nursing facility or long-term care. For many, an SNF (Skilled Nursing Facility) is a great opportunity to begin a career and hone skills learned in school. It is an area of OT that is easy to then fall in love with, as the work is a nice combination of rewarding and challenging. Aging members of the baby boomer population notoriously relish their independence, freedom, and resilience. This will likely extend to their attitude on illness, injury and their expectations for recovery. Add to the mix the fact that seniors in this demographic are working longer and therefore are most likely transitioning directly from an active work and personal life directly to injury and illness, with no traditional retirement hiatus in between.
Occupational therapists and traveling occupational therapists already working with this age group are probably seeing their patients’ distinct unwillingness to rest or relax after suffering a health setback – no matter how severe. In fact, occupational therapy is a hot service item in nursing homes for patients who, rather than settling into the role of “nursing home resident” are using the facilities as temporary rehabilitation pit stops between injury and recovery.
Consider that as of 2008 there were 78 million baby boomers, well over 4000 long-term care facilities such as nursing homes and 1.4 million residents in those facilities. As patients in this demographic start seeking out occupational therapy versus bingo on a regular basis, the demand for occupational therapists and travel occupational therapists may increase even more than already predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (23 percent by 2016).
Another great benefit of occupational therapy in a nursing home is the education that you’ll get while on the job. One of the best things about working in a nursing home is that there are a variety of different healthcare professionals all working under one roof. This means that you’ll have no shortage of mentors, and you’ll get the chance to learn from a variety of healthcare experts. Unlike some other settings, SNF patients often have a wide range of diagnoses. In the same day, you may treat an elderly lady with a new hip replacement, a lovely man with dementia, a 40-year-old who was in a car accident, and a 98-year-old with carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are also plenty of opportunities to further your education as well. Since nursing home jobs are often flexible, you can take the time to go back to school if there’s a specific specialty you’d like to pursue. Many companies will even offer to pay for schooling so you can further career without having to worry about the financial implications.
We could talk all day about the financial benefits and the educational perks that occupational therapy in nursing homes can provide, but let’s not for that it’s a fun career as well! You never know what you’re going to walk into when you start your shift, and that’s part of the fun! Occupational therapists in nursing homes often become a tight-knit family. You’ll often be dealing with the ups and downs with the occupation together, but at the end of the day, it’s about providing the best possible care. You’ll get to use your creativity during therapy so you can spice things up with your patients!
As always, if you’re looking for an OT job, feel free to check out the thousands of assignments we have available!