A Day in the Life Working in OT Teletherapy
For this “Day in the Life” article, we’re very excited to share what it’s like working in OT teletherapy, featuring teletherapist Rachel Morris, OTR/L. Thanks, Rachel, for sharing your insight and experience!
In 1990, I started my career as an occupational therapist. Throughout my career, I gained firsthand experience in working with teams and collaborating to handle a variety of situations. After 23 years of working as an occupational therapist, including eight years of onsite school-based experience, I was ready for a new challenge.
I saw teletherapy as a new opportunity for me to help more schools and students and to grow as an OT. In 2013 I contracted with PresenceLearning as a remote OT provider. As I made the switch to teletherapy, I appreciated the knowledge I had gained while being an in-person OT.
Because of my understanding of the educational setting and how occupational therapy supports students, I was able to physically remove myself from the location while still being an instrumental part of a student’s support team. I already knew how to participate in IEP meetings, collaborate with onsite staff to make appropriate recommendations for classroom accommodations, complete evaluations and progress reports, and participate in RTI programs.
It is helpful to have prior experiences before becoming a remote provider so you understand the context for the required work and so the changes to your daily routine are manageable.
My Daily Routine
As a telehealth OT for PresenceLearning, I preferred to work three long days and then a half day on Mondays or Fridays. I’d see about 15-18 students per day (mostly individual sessions) and being remote allowed me to do that. Other providers work with PresenceLearning part time or only a few hours a day. The nice thing about being a remote provider is having control over your schedule.
Meeting with Students
When I meet with a student, I tend to start our therapy sessions with exercises or movement activities. I typically focus on some core strength and coordination and then move to more distal exercises. Beginning a session with exercise activates the body and the brain, and it helps set up a successful session.
I also attend IEP meetings remotely from my home office. Using video conferencing through the online therapy platform, the IEP team can see and hear me and I can see and hear them. These meetings are also helpful for parents. They have the chance to familiarize themselves with videoconferencing in order to get a better sense of what their child is experiencing during their therapy sessions.
When I’m not conducting direct therapy, there is still plenty of work to be done. I spend my time documenting data collected during sessions to help monitor progress and adjusting my plans of care as needed.
Another crucial part of my job outside of my direct sessions is reaching out to my school sites, teachers, and parents. Teachers or parents may be unsure of how to connect with the provider when they are remote so it is up to the provider to take the initiative to build a collaborative relationship.
Also, when you are providing services online, reaching out to parents and teachers on a regular basis will remind them of your presence and allow you to provide them with follow up activities for the classroom or home. This can be extremely helpful to providing consistency for the student.
Coordinating with Support Staff
Another person who I collaborate with on a daily basis is the support person. During sessions, there is a support person in the room with the students to help with things that I am unable to do. They are key to making sessions running smoothly as they help by setting up the student with the technology, keeping the camera view on the child, and making sure requested supplies are available in sessions. They are also great to collaborate with outside of sessions.
Since they are attending sessions, it is easy to work with them and train them on ideas to carry over into the classroom and at home. When I have a support person who is dedicated to my students, I’ve noticed progress being made faster. They are an important part of the process and help make my job possible even though I am not physically there.
Advice for Those Interested in Teletherapy
Prior to getting started with teletherapy, I encourage practitioners to do their own research. A good place to start is to understand the AOTA’s position on telehealth. AOTA has a telehealth position paper posted on their website that both members and non-members can access. Also, occupational therapy boards for the state you live in and/or the states where the students are located can often be helpful in understanding state regulations.
As I started teletherapy, I joined social media groups and connected with other OTs who worked online. They are great resources to ask about tips and tricks of the trade. One of the great things about PresenceLearning is their network of clinicians. They made it easy to connect with other teletherapists and collaborate with them.
For instance, if I had some students with challenging needs, I could access this network of clinicians who could share their experiences and know how to help me provide high quality OT services.
The move to teletherapy has been a successful one for me. It fits my lifestyle needs and allows me to impact more students – and finding the right partner has helped tremendously.
If you’re interested in working in OT teletherapy, you can visit www.presencelearning.com/clinicians/join/ for more information.
Rachel Morris started as an OT provider for PresenceLearning in 2013. She now works as PresenceLearning’s Clinical Account Manager for Occupational Therapy, and oversees the implementation of telehealth clinical OT services provided in an educational setting.