Occupational Therapy Month: Healthcare staffing expert provides career insight for OT grads seeking occupational therapy jobs

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In celebration of Occuptional Therapy Month, which occurs annually during the month of April, Sunny Snook of medical staffing leader Aureus Medical Group provides insight for students and recent OT grades who are preparing for occupational therapist jobs and careers in this growing field of healthcare. Snook is a branch manager and director of student outreach for the rehabilitation therapy division of the healthcare staffing agency.

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"An OT student should be experienced in patient populations across all age groups. Having a diverse background can help the new graduate be more marketable in various settings, rather than just one."

In light of Occupational Therapy Month, celebrated annually in April, an expert in the rehabilitation therapy job market offers career insight and best practices for occupational therapy students and new graduates who are preparing for healthcare careers in OT. Sunny Snook, branch manager of recruitment and student outreach within the rehabilitation therapy division of Aureus Medical Group, addresses the future outlook of occupational therapy jobs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 29 percent increase in OT jobs between 2012 and 2022, which is considered "much faster" compared to other professions. Moreover, U.S. News & World Report ranked OTs No. 9 in its list of the best health care jobs in 2015, so the future looks bright.

The state of the OT field:

The aforementioned BLS statistics paint a picture of a profession that is steadily growing and showing great promise in a U.S. health care market that is still trying to claw its way out of a recession. In addition, there are a lot of factors shaping the OT field as of late. Snook also indicated that the recent changes in access to health care in the U.S. and an aging population seeking to maintain its physical health would certainly play a role moving forward. However, there are other circumstances influencing OT grads as well.

"New graduate OTs still have to be mindful of the job market in which they are getting into. As more and more articles highlight the rehab therapy field, the demand will grow but so will the number of schools offering OT programs and hence, the number of graduates," Snook explained. "Does that mean that OT grads will not have a position? Of course not! Occupational Therapists will have many options so the actual job challenge for the OT graduate will be ensuring that the job market they are in … is one that can support the number of OTs looking for employment."

Preparing for employment in occupational therapist jobs:

Occupational therapy is undoubtedly an exciting field to be working in, but there are a few guidelines that new OT grads need to keep in mind. First of all, if potential OTs are looking to excel in a specialized field, they will want to begin crafting their resume to reflect their interest. For instance, Snook said that if OT students are interested in geriatrics, they will need to focus on looking for fieldwork with Alzheimer's or dementia patients. Additionally, those who would like to focus on outpatient settings will need to lean toward orthopedic patients.

However, there are opportunities for students or new grads who prefer a more well-rounded approach.
"An OT student should be experienced in patient populations across all age groups. Having a diverse background can help the new graduate be more marketable in various settings, rather than just one," Snook said.

She also offered some great advice for what hiring managers are looking for on resumes in this highly competitive career field. First off, new OTs will need to share the knowledge they have gained by highlighting details in their fieldwork. This can include the setting, patient populations associated with your work, diagnoses and treatments that were administered as well as documentation systems or projects that were worked on. All of these will give a hiring manager are clearer picture of where an OT fits in a respective team.

Occupational therapists will have a major impact on an aging population heading into retirement.
Additionally, some specific training or volunteer work to get involved in that might help OTs gain more expertise is working in a facility where rehab therapy is a focus. This will be incredibly important as many U.S. citizens are heading toward retirement age, and Snook said that there will be a specific focus on the needs of that demographic moving forward.

As for conferences and organizations that can help OTs better prepare for their future careers and employment, Snook encourages new grads to look to the American Occupational Therapy Association, as the AOTA can help OT grads become better connected with others in the field and also stay informed about best practices and updates.

However, OTs will want to showcase their personality, as a majority of hiring managers will want to know immediately if a new OT grad is the best fit for their team.

"I always encourage the new grads I am working with to really let their personality shine because skill sets can be coached, a bad attitude cannot," Snook explained. "Don't get me wrong, having a fantastic educational program and fieldwork is great, but it's not always the end all."

Opportunities for travel occupational therapy jobs:

One of the best perks about being a new OT grad is the fact that they have the ability to enjoy travel therapy immediately following graduation. This career option entails working as a contract employee at facilities across the country in assignments generally 13-26 weeks in length. OTs are employed by a healthcare staffing agency, which identifies assignments that are of interest to them personally and professionally. Snook said is an excellent way for young therapists to get out and explore new locations, build up their resume and pay off their student loan debt all at the same time.

"For those that are unsure as to where they want to be or what setting they want to get into, this allows them the time to figure that out while also being able to meet different people," Snook explained. "More importantly, they also learn how to quickly build rapport and be a part of a team while also developing strong skills that allow them to work independently."

Additionally, working as a travel therapist may come with a benefits package. Not only can new OT grads involved with the program have the opportunity to travel and learn, but they also may be eligible for a 401K package, comprehensive insurance plans that cover health, dental and life insurance, tuition reimbursement, as well as housing while on assignment and travel to and from the contract location.

"For those interested in a travel position, the best way to prepare is to be open to new locations and new settings, since building a travel career first starts with the new grad being placed in a facility that can support him or her," Snook concluded.


Aureus Medical Group is a national leader in healthcare staffing specializing in the successful placement of Nursing, Advanced Practice, Cardiopulmonary, Diagnostic Imaging, Medical Laboratory, Neurodiagnostics, Radiation Oncology, and Rehabilitation Therapy professionals, as well as Physicians, in hospitals and medical facilities nationwide. With more than 30 years of experience, Aureus Medical offers a full range of staffing options, including national contract (travel), local contract, and direct hire. Aureus Medical is the largest affiliate of Omaha-based C&A Industries, a leading provider of human capital management solutions for more than 45 years.

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Mary Carrick
Aureus Medical Group
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