Wanted: A Few Good Men in OT
If you look through any of the old occupational therapy textbooks or photos you seldom (never) see any male OTs. When I was in occupational therapy school in the early 1970s, I remember that there was one male in our class of approximately twenty students, about five percent. In the 1990s, I taught at the community college in the Occupational Therapy Assistant program, I only remember one male student in a class of about fifteen (about six percent) in any of the graduation classes.
Curious, I wondered if this had changed in more recent years. So I did what many people do, an online search using the keywords "men in occupational therapy," and discovered some interesting things. There was a blog for male OTs. I found an article about a 2010 National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition stating that only about ten percent of occupational therapists were male. Another article stated that OTRs were about six percent male and OT assistants about eight percent. Other articles I uncovered stated that most people viewed occupational therapy as a "female profession". A 2013 article in ADVANCE stated that less than ten percent of OTs is male.
Even YouTubehas a couple short videos such as "OT Man Loves his Job" that are quite entertaining and a bit informative.
Just as the term "male nurse" often gets a chuckle from the general public, men who choose a career in occupational therapy are sometimes not taken seriously either. Physical therapy, however, does not seem to carry that stigma. I find that to be rather noteworthy; but it seems there is a much higher percentage of males in physical therapy, somewhere around thirty percent, depending on what source you site.
A US News and World Report article in January 2014 stated in a list of best healthcare jobs that occupational therapist ranks ninth and occupational therapy assistant ranks thirteenth.
We need more guys in our profession!!! At 110 pounds, I am simply not as physically strong as any male over about fifteen years old. Some of the work occupational therapists do involve heavy lifting, such as a very large patient, or even a child who is not cooperating with his OT treatment. And when it comes to doing morning or evening training in activities of daily living, there are some patients who simply prefer working on bathing and dressing skills with a male rather than a female therapist.
The same reasons that attract women to our profession should, in theory, interest men. The pay is respectable, the jobs are ample, there is much flexibility in settings and hours, there is great room for advancement and best of all, and you get to help patients enjoy an optimal quality of life.
I do hope that some male OTs will read this blog and comment on why they chose this career, and their experience working in a female dominated profession. Also, I'd love to hear comments from men who considered OT but chose a different career path.