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Career Profile: Occupational Therapy Assistant - Nancy M. Bernier

Career Profile: Occupational Therapy Assistant - Nancy M. Bernier

Nancy M. Bernier, Occupational Therapy Assistant (contractor), Occupational Therapy Department, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I chose to become an occupational therapy assistant because 12 years ago I had breast cancer and saw first-hand the benefit that the OT assistant gave to the patient. I was an accounts payable supervisor at the time. Before that, I was a secretary, then worked in real estate and then in accounting. After completing my chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and during recovery, I began to consider a new career.

More on Occupational Therapy Assistants & Aides


Salary: $17,060 - $44,130
Min. Education: Certificate or Associate's
Related Careers: Physical Therapist Assistant, Social Worker

Being impressed with the possibilities in the medical field, I started researching education programs. I attended an educational fair at a local college and narrowed my career choices to physical therapy or occupational therapy. After observing an occupational therapist at work, and talking with instructors, I decided that OT would suit me best. It covered a wide variety of physical aspects as applied to real-life situations. I applied to the program at the local community college. It was a very competitive program and required that the applicant successfully complete the following college courses: psychology, medical terminology, introduction to occupational therapy and anatomy and physiology. Acceptance in the program was based on passing grades, an interview with the instructor, and references. I was among the 25 students accepted in the program. I left my job in accounting and returned to school full-time.

Education and Certification
• Associate in Applied Science, Occupational Therapist Assistant, Amarillo College, Amarillo Texas
• National Certification, American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
• State Certification, Texas, (Requires 30 continuing education units every 2 years.)

My typical workday involves…

My typical workday starts with the same goal – to return the patient to the functional level that he/she had before their injury occurred. I work with patients who have all types of injury, and even stroke victims. Many of them have limited mobility in some way. My strategy is to help them strengthen the upper body, increase their range of motion, and enable them to participate effectively in the activities of daily living. The patient must understand that he/she will not do things in the same way as before the injury. We work on alternative ways to accomplish daily tasks such as bathing, brushing teeth, getting dressed, and cooking. The goal is to have the patient become independent. The majority of patients are very motivated because they want to be independent. I introduce them to equipment “helpers” that help them to accomplish daily tasks independently like the:

• Long handle bath sponge – a device that helps patients bath themselves
• Long handle shoe horn – a device that helps patients put on their shoes
• Sock Aid – a device that helps patients to put on their socks
• Reacher – a device that helps patients reach things and dress themselves
• Leg Lifter – a device that helps patients with leg mobility, for example, used as an aide to get in and out of bed.


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    I enjoyed your article im in school now for ota

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    Hi Nancy, I enjoyed your article very much. I have been a medical transcriptionist for about 22 years, then also a realtor, and now I transcribe reports for an outpatient Physical Medicine department of a hospital. We have speech pathologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. I decided occupational therapy was something I would be very interested in. Before that, I had never been to college, so I had to get my basics out of the way and hope and pray to be accepted into the OTA program. I was, and this is my first year. So far, it has been very challenging. I still work full time and go to school. My boss is very supportive and allowed me to adjust my hours to suit my school schedule. I have heard from everyone I know in the therapy business that not having enough time is the greatest frustration when working with your patients. Your career goals are similar to mine. I hope to travel with a contract company. Good luck to you, and thank you for your article.

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