This excerpt is from a question that a student who was considering OT and a particular school asked me via e-mail.
Do I regret going into occupational therapy? What is the pay like? Burnout?
Not at all for healthcare. For OT? To nitpick, maybe a few, but they are not big and like dealbreakers. I think one problem with what you read online is you are only reading the negative. Kind of like Amazon reviews, most people don’t write a review for a product they are satisfied with but you get confirmation bias with products/reviews/comments about the minority and these may skew the results or our perspective of things. One downside that is probably the biggest is that “no one knows what OTs do”. If you can deal with explaining it and advocating for the profession, you would have one less ‘regret’ – person dependent though.
I think answering the question of OT vs. other healthcare professions is a bigger question for another post. But OT is a great field, a very niche field. What I think that is what makes it special. Sometimes I feel like other professions are more ‘prestigious’ or well-known, but this also depends on the area you work in, where you live, etc. For example, like lots of moms and dads know what OTs do and appreciate it because maybe their kiddo is in therapy, etc.
Regarding the pay, OT is very competitive, but yeah, if you’re going to compare it to like nursing, we are not making as much. Is the pay worth it? Let’s look at nursing for here in California. Now, my wife is a nurse. Would I be able to “do it for the money?” Nope, not due to the stress in nursing and high burnout. Again my wife is a nurse so I see how it has affected her mental health. I see the long hours she puts in. I hear her stories at work. And I weigh it on the higher salary. To me, it’s not still worth it, but she loves it. You look at the Rodanda nursing case of her med error and facing going to jail, the 2 recent nurse suicides within a few months this year – it’s a very sad situation.
I might be biased, but I think OT is great compared to other healthcare professions. If you are more extroverted, introverted, outspoken, not – it doesn’t mean OT may not be right for you, maybe just the area of it. I personally am very introverted but at work, I turn on my OT face and it’s not a problem. But it does take a lot!
Burnout. I researched this topic very heavily and TBH there’s not much data on burnout for OT compared to say doctors and nurses. I believe it’s there for OTs, but not as high compared to RNs and MDs. In today’s healthcare environment with COVID-19, I’ll guess it’s much higher across the board. Yeah, a lot of OTs probably quit or think about it since the pandemic, I’m sure – but a lot of what you’re seeing is an echo chamber on the internet, e.g., Reddit/Facebook of the negative.
But a lot of OTs do love their jobs and making a difference based on our OT philosophy and approach to health and wellness.
This is a very interesting topic that I have some insight into as an OT who ‘recently ‘graduated so I am hoping to research and share more of my personal experience with you all.
TLDR; So is OT still a good field to get into? Yes.