Occupational therapists could soon face issue of supply and demand

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JEFFERSON CITY -A new report shows that there could soon be a lack of occupational therapists, at a time when the demand will be higher than ever.

The Conference Board looked at 457 jobs, and the report predicts occupational therapy is in the top percentile to face a labor shortage in the upcoming years.

The report also said, "the health care industry is at high risk for shortages because of the rapidly growing demand for health workers."

Denise Hagemann is SSM Health St. Mary Hospital's occupational therapist, and she thinks there will be a shortage, but not for long.

"The difficulty is not enough people are graduating," Hagemann said. "And I know...we're now having master's degrees. When I was in school, it was just a bachelor's degree."

The report said the average amount of education required for therapy aides and assistants is 13 years.

Hagemann said, "There will possibly be for a small time frame...a period where there won't be enough OTs graduated."

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association 2014-2015 annual data report, occupational therapy enrollment grew from 10,239 in 2004 to 18,550 in 2014.

"I know occupational therapy will continue to grow," Hagemann said. "It is booming big time, so there's going to be the ability to have a job in occupational therapy big time as the years go on."

The Conference Board report said, "employers can mitigate some labor shortages by increasing immigration labor."