The Ultimate Guide To Building Your Career in Hand Therapy - Hand Therapy Secrets

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The Ultimate Guide To Building a Career In Hand Therapy

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If you’re an occupational therapist with aspirations of becoming a hand therapist, you’re in the right place. 

My name is Hoang, and I’m an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist. I speak to so many different people about what they can do at various stages of their career in terms of building hand therapy so this is going to be the ultimate guide to help you now, if you’re an occupational therapist or you’re an occupational therapist assistant. 

Strategic Fieldwork Placement

If hand therapy is your goal, make sure your fieldwork reflects that ambition. What I mean by that is to communicate with your fieldwork coordinator to ensure placements align with your interest in hand therapy. Proactively seeking relevant experiences during fieldwork can significantly accelerate your career progression. Whether in a hand therapy clinic or broader settings dealing with hand and arm injuries, your choices now shape your future opportunities.

If you’re not persistent about where you’re being placed for your fieldwork placement, it’s going to make it difficult for you to go out and get a job afterwards so your fieldwork placements really key in terms of helping you move your career in a faster pace.

Land Your First Job

Getting your first job might seem challenging, but persistence is key. If your ideal position isn’t immediately available, take what you can get and build from there. I emphasize the importance of being vocal about your career aspirations. Even if your initial role isn’t directly in hand therapy, express your interest in working with patients facing hand and arm challenges. Every bit of experience adds up.

I spoke at a conference recently, and there were many students who expressed, “I just want to try out various settings.” That sentiment is both wonderful and commendable. No matter the setting you choose, ensure you extract the most from it in terms of experience. After all, the ultimate guide to building your career in Hand Therapy primarily hinges on your work experience.

So, my advice? Dive in, get a job, and start accumulating that experience. I understand the sentiment of those who might think, “I can’t land the job I want to gain the experience.” Trust me, I hear you. But there are ways to navigate this challenge. Ultimately, it boils down to taking that first step, even if it means piecing it together.

I recall my early days when I secured a position at a small acute care hospital. Surprisingly, I garnered extensive hand and upper extremity experience there. The key? I was proactive. I voiced my aspirations, stating, “I want this!” I expressed my eagerness to work with specific patient demographics, and it opened doors for me. While they didn’t immediately grant me access to the outpatient hand therapy section due to prior commitments, I capitalized on other opportunities. This proactive approach led me to gain substantial wound care experience.

Later, I transitioned to my initial roles in a skilled nursing facility. 

There, I fervently communicated my interest in Hand Therapy. I eagerly sought patients with hand and arm injuries, whether it was someone recovering from a stroke, a humeral fracture, distal radius issues, or arthritis. I was eager and ready to assist.

In essence, always seize every opportunity to accumulate work experience. For those unaware, I’ve compiled a guide on how to secure a job, particularly in Hand Therapy. It offers numerous tips and recommendations to aid your journey.

Master Your Craft

So, if the first step is gaining experience, the second pivotal step is enrolling in courses. Your education doesn’t end with your degree. It stresses the importance of continuous learning. Take relevant courses to enhance your skills.

Often, I encounter therapists who, fresh out of school, exclaim, “I’ve just completed my degree; I’m done with studying!” But here’s a realization I hope to impart: your formal education is merely the foundation. Your bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate serves as your entry ticket into the professional realm. With it, you can begin your journey as an occupational therapist or an occupational therapist assistant. However, the real question looms: How do you enhance your proficiency?

Reflecting on my early days, I believed I was adequately prepared. But deep down, a nagging feeling persisted, reminding me of gaps in my knowledge. Upon joining an acute care job, my training spanned a mere day or two, focusing mainly on hospital protocols, policies, and rudimentary tasks like CPR. The clinical tour culminated at a computer, which marked the beginning of my patient list dilemma. Overwhelmed, I grappled with understanding my role and responsibilities.

For newcomers, acclimating to a job typically takes a few weeks. But I advise giving yourself six to nine months before diving into specialized courses. Feeling my own inadequacies, I sought educational opportunities fervently. In the past, I’d browse magazines like ‘Advanced Occupational Therapy’ to discover courses, prioritizing local ones due to budget constraints. As years passed and my career progressed, I broadened my horizons, occasionally flying to distant locations for specialized training.

In today’s digital age, seeking courses is more accessible than ever. A simple Google search can yield numerous online courses. Many enthusiasts discover me through platforms like Instagram, where I actively share insights. The digital realm, from TikTok to LinkedIn, has become my stage, and I’m eager to connect with aspiring therapists everywhere. My objective? Ensuring that anyone seeking courses can easily find relevant resources.

For those embarking on this journey, my advice is to prioritize foundational courses before delving into niche areas. Start broad; for instance, familiarize yourself with general manual therapy techniques before progressing to specialized subsets.

While starting broad is recommended, eventually, delve into specific areas. Explore both in-person and online courses, seeking a balance that suits your needs. My journey highlights the value of expanding your knowledge beyond what formal education provides.

The Ultimate Guide To Building a Career In Hand Therapy

The Significance of Mentorship

Number three: Find yourself a mentor. But what does having a mentor mean? It doesn’t necessarily entail someone sitting beside you, demonstrating specific techniques or methods. Let’s delve deeper into the concept of mentoring.

A mentor can guide you in making crucial career decisions. Throughout my journey, I’ve always extended an offer to my volunteers and students: ‘Reach out to me whenever you need guidance.’ Surprisingly, only a handful have taken up this offer. If someone has extended such an offer to you, ensure you have their contact details. After completing my studies, I reached out to my Clinical Instructors (CIs) who had been supportive. Their reassurance and guidance were invaluable during the initial stages of my career.

There are different types of mentors to consider. Firstly, there’s the mentor you actively follow, perhaps someone whose content you consume, like books, podcasts, or videos. Even if they’re not physically present, their insights can guide and shape your journey.

Secondly, there’s the on-site mentor, someone within your clinic or organization. While they may not always be available to teach, they’re invaluable when you need to discuss ideas, seek feedback, or gain clarity on certain aspects.

Now, differentiating between teaching and mentorship is crucial. Teaching involves imparting knowledge, like explaining the intricacies of a procedure or protocol. On the other hand, mentorship revolves around refining your understanding, helping you see gaps, and guiding you through challenges. For instance, while I offer instructional videos in my mentorship program, the true mentoring aspect comes when we discuss real-world cases, brainstorming solutions, and addressing concerns.

Mentors provide perspective, especially during challenging times. For instance, I recall assisting a therapist who struggled with a particularly negative patient. Through mentorship, I offered a different viewpoint, aiding her in understanding the patient’s perspective and feelings.

In essence, mentors come in various forms and can evolve over time. While some mentors might be lifelong guides, others might serve specific phases or challenges in your career. It’s crucial to align with mentors whose values resonate with yours. Also, don’t restrict yourself to just one mentor; different mentors can offer diverse perspectives and insights.

Mentorship plays a crucial role in career development. Mentors can guide you not only in technical skills but also in making strategic career decisions. I emphasize that mentors can be found in various forms – from direct colleagues to online influencers. Having a support system that aligns with your values can provide valuable insights and encouragement.

Persistence is Your Greatest Asset

To summarize, the ultimate guide to building a successful career in Hand Therapy involves gaining experience, enrolling in relevant courses, and surrounding yourself with supportive mentors. However, the most vital aspect is persistence. Only you can drive your journey forward. Over the years, I’ve witnessed therapists progress at varying paces. Some rapidly ascend in their careers, while others stagnate due to inaction. It’s essential to remember that while external guidance is beneficial, your drive and determination are paramount. If you genuinely desire growth, take proactive steps towards it. Remember, your journey is in your hands

Ultimately, building a successful career in hand therapy requires persistence. I own experience underscores the power of consistently expressing your career goals. Whether through job searches, educational pursuits, or seeking mentorship, your dedication to the journey is what sets you apart.

Check out our podcast on Building Your Career in Hand Therapy


In conclusion, my ultimate guide outlines a path tailored to occupational therapists aspiring to specialize in hand therapy. Strategic fieldwork, persistence in job searches, continuous learning, mentorship, and unwavering persistence are the cornerstones of success. Remember, your career is a journey, and with the right mindset and actions, you can shape it into a fulfilling and successful hand therapy career.

Start your path toward Hand Therapy Excellence with Hand Therapy Secrets.

Are you an aspiring hand therapist or a healthcare professional looking to enhance your skills in hand therapy? Look no further than Hand Therapy Secrets by Hoang Tran.

We are proud to offer a comprehensive range of mentorship and training resources designed to unlock your potential in the field of hand therapy. 

With Hand Therapy Secrets, you gain exclusive access to mentorship programs led by Hoang Tran, a highly experienced and respected occupational and hand therapist. 

Her expertise and guidance will provide you with invaluable insights, personalized feedback, and practical tips to elevate your hand therapy practice. Benefit from her wealth of knowledge and tap into the secrets of successful hand therapy techniques. You can check out some of our resources below:

Whether you’re a beginner seeking mentorship or a seasoned professional looking to refine your expertise, our resources are tailored to meet your needs. 

Visit our website and join us on this transformative journey to become an exceptional hand therapist!

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Hoang Tran

“I help Occupational Therapists develop their skills and grow their confidence in Hand Therapy. No matter where you are on your journey, build a happy and fulfilling career of your dreams. I’ll help you.”