In order to become an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), one must first learn the terminology. Medical terminology is the language that medical professionals use to communicate with each other. It describes the human body and specific medical conditions. It’s important because it not only helps healthcare workers understand each other, but it also helps them understand a patient’s medical condition. By using correct medical terminology, they can come up with a treatment plan and make sure that the best patient care experience is delivered.
Learning these new terms will help you set a good foundation for your future career as an occupational therapy assistant. Below, we’ve come up with a list of some of the most important terms and phrases used by OTAs:
Activities of daily living (ADLs)
Activities that are oriented toward taking care of one’s own body and are completed on a daily basis. These activities are fundamental to living in a social world; they enable basic survival and well-being.1
A specific tool, instrument, or systematic interaction used to understand a client’s occupational profile, client factors, performance skills, performance patterns, and contextual and environmental factors, as well as activity demands that influence occupational performance.
Client-centered care (client-centered practice)
Approach to service that incorporates respect for and partnership with clients as active participants in the therapy process. This approach emphasizes clients’ knowledge and experience, strengths, capacity for choice, and overall autonomy.
Emotional exchange between occupational therapy practitioners and clients that allows more open communication, ensuring that practitioners connect with clients at an emotional level to assist them with their current life situation.
The comprehensive process of obtaining and interpreting the data necessary to understand the person, system, or situation. Evaluation requires synthesis of all data obtained, analytic interpretation of that data, reflective clinical reasoning, and consideration of occupational performance and contextual factors.
Measurable and meaningful, occupation-based, long-term or short-term aid directly related to the client’s ability and need to engage in desired occupations.
Specific, automatic behaviors performed repeatedly, relatively automatically, and with little variation. Habits can be healthy or unhealthy, efficient or inefficient, and supportive or harmful.
Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)
Activities that support daily life within the home and community and that often require more complex interactions than those used in ADLs.
Process and skilled actions taken by occupational therapy practitioners in collaboration with the client to facilitate engagement in occupation related to health and participation. The intervention process includes the plan, implementation, and review.
Everyday personalized activities that people do as individuals, in families, and with communities to occupy time and bring meaning and purpose to life. Occupations can involve the execution of multiple activities for completion and can result in various outcomes. The broad range of occupations is categorized as activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living, health management, rest and sleep, education, work, play, leisure, and social participation.
Quality of life
Dynamic appraisal of life satisfaction (perception of progress towards identifying goals), self-concept (beliefs and feelings about oneself), health and functioning (e.g., health status, self-care capabilities), and socioeconomic factors (e.g., vocation, education, income).
Services provided to persons experiencing deficit keys areas of physical and other types of functions or limitations in participation in daily life activities. Interventions are designed to enable the achievement of and maintenance of optimal physical, sensory, intellectual, psychological, and social functional levels. Rehabilitation services provide tools and techniques clients need to attain desired levels of independence and self-determination.
For persons: Sets of behaviors expected by society and shaped by culture and context that may be further conceptualized and defined by the client.
For groups and populations: Set of behaviors by the group or population expected by society and shaped by culture and context that may be further conceptualized and defined by the group or population.
Process of reviewing available data, observing a client, or administering screening instruments to identify a person’s (or a population’s) potential strengths and limitations and the need for further assessment.
To be covered as skilled therapy, services must require the skills of a qualified occupational therapy practitioner and must be reasonable and necessary for the treatment of the patient’s condition, illness, or injury. Skilled therapy services may be necessary to improve a patient’s current condition, or to prevent or slow further deterioration of the patient’s condition. Practitioners should check their payer policies to ensure they meet payer definitions and comply with payer requirements.
The individual’s perception of and responsibility for psychological and physical well-being as these contribute to overall satisfaction with one’s life situation.
Abbreviations and acronyms are shortened forms of words, and they are very commonly used in medical settings to help a patient’s care team more effectively communicate with each other. The abbreviations help save time, space, and effort, so the medical professionals are able to focus on treating the patients.
Here are some of the most frequently used abbreviations in occupational therapy:
POC – Plan of care
SOAP note – way that students are taught documentation principles
STG – Short term goal
LTG – Long term goal
SNF/SNU – Skilled nursing facility/skilled nursing unit
LTC – Long term care
EI – Early intervention
OTR/L – Occupational therapist registered/licensed
COTA/L – Certified occupational therapy assistant/licensed
UE – Upper extremity
LE – Lower extremity
HEP – Home exercise program
IP rehab – Inpatient rehabilitation
OP rehab – Outpatient rehabilitation
Tx – Treatment
PAMS – Physical agent modalities
FW – Fieldwork
AE – Adaptive equipment
AD – Assistive devices
WC – Wheelchair
As you pursue a career as an occupational therapy assistant, you will have the opportunity to learn all of the medical terminology and abbreviations used in the profession. This will help prepare you for when you go out on your externship, and it will ensure that you are able to communicate with fellow co-workers, occupational therapists, and even patients. For more information, please visit the Ross Occupational Therapy program page.
1 Occupational Therapy Practice Framework Domain and Process, 4th Edition