Job Field: Healthcare
I’ve worked in a skilled nursing facility, home-health pediatrics, and mobile outpatient therapy.
(Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and style)
What degree(s) do you have and in what discipline(s)?
I have a BA in Anthropology and a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy.
What is your current salary or salary range?
I earned $37.50/hour at the skilled nursing facility and $53/visit in home-health pediatrics, which worked out to be about the same take-home pay.
What can someone with a BA/MA/PhD expect to earn in this job?
To be an occupational therapist you’re required to have a Masters degree; however, all schools are currently switching over to doctorate programs and that will be the new requirement. Anyone who previously held an Masters degree is grandfathered in. Pay will not be increased to reflect the higher degree now required. Pay varies widely depending on what setting (school system, skilled-nursing facility, acute care, outpatient pediatrics, hand therapy, etc.) and state you’re in. Go to OTsalary.com for detailed info, but the range is typically $30-$80/hour.
What type of benefits are typically provided in your job field?
If you’re full-time and not a contractor or PRN (meaning you work as needed), you’re eligible for health insurance, paid time off, 401K, etc. Paid holidays are rare in my experience and according to other OTs I know.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
At the skilled nursing facility, I typically saw from 6 to 10 patients per day for sessions ranging from 30 minutes to an hour. How many patients you see in a day depends on how many patients are currently in the facility, and that fluctuates regularly. In skilled nursing facilities all therapists (including physical therapists and speech therapists) have productivity standards to reach. At my facility we had to reach 85%, meaning 85% of my time was spent one-on-one with patients and the remaining time documenting or talking with staff about patient care and concerns. Not every facility has the same productivity standard and not every director of rehabilitation (my boss) has the same philosophy on its flexibility.
What do you like the most about your job?
By far, the people, both fellow therapists and patients. It doesn’t matter what you do, if you’re in healthcare you’ll meet a variety of people from all sorts of different backgrounds and different personalities. Specifically with patients, my favorite part was being able to connect with them during a vulnerable time in their life. In anthropology you learn about different cultures. As an occupational therapist I got to really get to know people from many different cultural backgrounds. Therapists spend more time with patients than any other healthcare professional they interact with, so there’s more of an opportunity to develop a strong rapport and get to know someone. Regarding other therapists, I’ve made lifelong friends with the people I work with. Therapists are naturally empathetic and caring people!
What do you like the least about your job?
Definitely health insurance rules. Sometimes it’s hard to get a patient what they need, whether that’s more time for therapy/in the facility or medical equipment like a wheelchair, because their health insurance either doesn’t cover it or doesn’t think the services are justified. This is a constant battle for some patients and it can be incredibly frustrating when you don’t have any control over that piece of the puzzle. Also, the productivity standards. That’s a rabbit hole I could go down, but I’ll spare you from that.
How has your anthropology degree(s) influenced your present career?
The biggest thing from my anthropology degree that has influenced my career is the idea of cultural relativism. When I was working in home-health pediatrics, I had kids from many different cultures and countries: Iran, Mexico, Israel, Poland, Egypt, Nigeria, etc. Because I was working in home health, I was going into family homes, which is a lot different from seeing someone in an office, facility, or hospital because you see the person in their own environment. If I didn’t already believe that just because something is different from what I know it doesn’t mean it’s wrong, then I would have had a challenging time connecting with my kids and their families. Especially working with children, having rapport with the family is crucial. And you don’t develop rapport unless you’re able to easily work within their cultural environment so that you can give recommendations that will fit into their family life and set them up for success. You must be able to explain medical concepts that will make sense from their world view. If you’re not doing any of that, then you’re not doing your job. Essentially, as an occupational therapist, my job was to meet my client and their family where they were at – a skill that doesn’t come easily to everyone. Even though we learned a lot about this in occupational therapy school, it was my anthropology degree that I really gained this valuable skill and knowledge.
Another thing that was essential to being successful at my job was understanding the consequences of movement patterns and habits (both positive and negative) on health. I focused on biological anthropology as an undergraduate, so learning the relationships between cultural practices, movement, and health was incredibly helpful with this part of my job.
And lastly, occupational therapy places a lot of emphasis on the impact of making things on our health and well-being. This quote is probably the most famous quote in occupational therapy about this idea: “Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health.” (Mary Reilly, EdD). In anthropology I learned about the different ways in which past peoples made things for utility and eventually ascribed meaning to them through art, design, or use. Because I learned to appreciate this in historical and present-day contexts, I more easily incorporated it into my sessions with patients, which had the consequence of better outcomes for them. While it sounds inconsequential, it definitely made me a better OT than if I hadn’t ever learned about it.
Long story short – people with anthropology degrees are needed in healthcare jobs!