Overcoming The Challenges Faced By Occupational Therapists

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn:

  • What an Occupational Therapist does.
  • The challenges faced by Occupational Therapists.
  • What can be done to overcome challenges as an Occupational Therapist.
  • Where the latest Occupational Therapist jobs are and how to apply for them.

What does an Occupational Therapist do?

Occupational Therapists help individuals of all ages overcome emotional, physical and mental challenges that interfere with their ability to engage in daily activities. 

They work with individuals with various conditions or disabilities, including physical injuries, developmental disorders, mental health issues, or age-related difficulties. 

Occupational Therapists assess clients' needs, develop personalised treatment plans, and provide interventions to improve their skills for daily tasks such as self care, work and independence.

They work with clients, families, and other healthcare professionals such as Physiotherapists, Nurses and Social Workers, to encourage clients to take part in rewarding activities.

Is it stressful being an Occupational Therapist?

Being an Occupational Therapist can be stressful as they often face heavy workloads, emotionally challenging situations, and physical demands while working with clients. Balancing multiple cases, meeting deadlines, and witnessing slow progress can also  contribute to stress. 

However, while the profession can be stressful, many Occupational Therapists find ways to manage their stress effectively. The Royal College of Occupational Therapists found that ‘93% believe occupational therapy is a rewarding career’ and ‘79% were enthusiastic about their job most of the time.’

With support from colleagues and professional networks, as well as self care and work-life balance, Occupational Therapists are able to navigate their roles with minimal stress and find satisfaction in helping clients achieve their goals.

How to overcome the challenges faced by Occupational Therapists

Some challenges Occupational Therapists may face include:

  • Professional recognition.
  • Limited resources.
  • Time constraints.
  • Client resistance or non-compliance.
  • Professional burnout.

Professional recognition 

Occupational Therapists may face challenges in achieving recognition and value within healthcare systems amongst other healthcare providers. This challenge is complex, which stems from historical perspectives, organisational structures, and the dynamic nature of healthcare. 

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists workforce survey report found that 47% of Occupational Therapists intend to leave their current role within the next two years due to feeling undervalued.

How to overcome this

Occupational Therapists could overcome this by advocating for their profession through education. By educating others about the role and benefits of occupational therapy, Occupational Therapists can increase understanding and recognition of their profession. This can lead to improved referral patterns, increased support from policymakers, and more acceptance within the healthcare system.

Generally speaking, most Occupational Therapists are proud to be part of the profession and their ability to deliver life-changing interventions to the public. 


Limited resources

In some settings, such as public healthcare and schools, Occupational Therapists may face limitations in resources such as equipment, funding and staffing. 

This can impact the quality and availability of services. This can be challenging as limited resources constrain the ability of Occupational Therapists to deliver comprehensive care. 

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists workforce survey report recommended that ‘governments must recognise that investment in the NHS and social care is critical to a healthy population and therefore economic growth.’ 

How to overcome this 

Occupational Therapists could develop creative solutions to make the most out of available resources such as reusing existing equipment or finding low cost alternatives. They could also advocate for increased funding and resources within healthcare systems, schools, or other settings to improve the quality and availability of services. 

This can be done by showcasing the real impact of their work. Occupational Therapists can gather data to prove how their services improve patient outcomes, save costs, and benefit people in the long run. 

By working closely with stakeholders and sharing stories of success, they can make a strong case for increased funds. This can help meet the rising demand for occupational therapy services and ensure that everyone has access to the quality care they need.

Time constraints

Occupational Therapists often have heavy caseloads and may struggle to find sufficient time to thoroughly assess clients, develop personalised treatment plans, and provide ongoing support. 

An Occupational Therapist with 37 years of experience working in the NHS said, “The wider health system feels broken and there are not the community/social care resources to support patients outside hospital.”

They continued, “We’re churning patients out faster and faster, older, frailer and more complex, but given no time to rehab or improve them, knowing that they will likely get readmitted again in a few days. That is disheartening when there is so much we could do if we were given a day or two, or there were more services in the community.”

How to overcome this 

Overcoming this particular challenge is difficult as Occupational Therapists are bound by the constraints of the NHS. Strategic decision makers need to make sure that the public service workforce prioritises the shortages in occupational therapy, so that workers can provide effective support for its patients. 

The Royal College of Occupational Therapists workforce survey report recommended that ‘capacity should be built within primary and community health and social care services, to ensure people receive advice and help early on, rather than when in acute need or with increased complexity due to delayed intervention.’

Client resistance or non-compliance 

Some clients may resist therapy or struggle to comply with treatment recommendations due to various factors such as motivation, cognitive impairments and cultural beliefs which can make it challenging for Occupational Therapists to achieve positive outcomes.

Occupational Therapist, Katie Wade, said “One of the challenges I’ve faced in my role is managing competing viewpoints about what should be a priority for the children I’m working with. Often parents and education staff will have their own perspective of what outcomes we should be working towards.”

Katie continues “These perspectives are not always shared by the child, and sometimes are from a very neurotypical lens of viewing the world.”

How to overcome this 

Occupational Therapists could invest time in building strong relationships with their clients to increase motivation. They could also adapt treatment approaches to align with their clients beliefs, preferences and cultural values to increase engagement and compliance.

Professional burnout

Occupational Therapists may experience burnout due to the emotional demands of working with clients facing physical and mental health challenges, as well as the stress of meeting productivity targets and managing administrative tasks. 

According to The Royal College Of Occupational Therapists, 59% of Occupational Therapists rated their work related stress as a 7 or above, with 10 being the highest level of stress.

How to overcome this 

Occupational Therapists could prioritise self care practices such as mindfulness, exercise and seeking support from colleagues to prevent burnout. They should establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent emotional exhaustion.

Occupational Therapist jobs

Searching for your dream Occupational Therapist job? Why not take a look at the current vacancies available, or upload your CV and healthcare recruitment specialist, Natalie Boaler, will be in touch when relevant opportunities become available.   

Recruiting Occupational Therapists?

Struggling to recruit Occupational Therapists? We supply Occupational Therapists to private sector organisations and NHS Trusts nationwide on a permanent, temporary, or interim basis. 

If you’re keen to know more about our Occupational Therapy recruitment services available, simply contact Natalie Boaler on 01772 954200.

Who is Spencer Clarke Group?

Formed in 2017, we’re an award winning recruitment agency based in Lancashire who thrive off doing things differently and turning heads along the way. 

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