Two-thirds of occupational therapists report burnout at work

Profession calls for new structures to deal with challenging working conditions and lack of career progression opportunities

Two-thirds of occupational therapists say they have experienced burnout at work over the past year.

Half have considered leaving the profession, according to a survey of members of the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland.

More than 430 occupational therapists participated in the online survey. Two-thirds said they felt more negatively about their job than a year ago, with 59 per cent of this group attributing this to lack of staffing and 37 per cent to lack of career progression and the experience of burnout. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was mentioned by 33 per cent of these respondents.

The main reasons given by respondents for considering a change of job or profession were the pursuit of a better work/life balance, better opportunities for career progression and a desire for a better work environment.


Four-fifths of occupational therapists believe the service is not adequately staffed and 69 per cent say their waiting lists have increased over the past 12 months.

Commenting on the survey, Odhrán Allen, chief executive of the association, said members were facing severely challenging and deteriorating working conditions that negatively affected their capacity to provide a high-quality service.

“The findings of our survey are extremely stark and concerning, and demonstrate the precarious situation occupational therapists and, by extension, those requiring occupational therapy services find themselves in.

“Against the backdrop of a rising demand for occupational therapist interventions, many seriously understaffed services and rapidly growing waiting lists, the provision of sustained, high-quality services that help children and adults to participate in everyday meaningful activities is increasingly unrealistic.”

Speaking at the association’s annual conference in Athlone on Friday, Mr Allen called on the Government to develop a new career structure for health and social care professionals, with a more tiered career ladder to broaden the number of clinical specialist opportunities.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times