Their profession is occupational therapy, and people refer to them as OT.
For the nearly 30 occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants at UI Hospitals and Clinics, April’s national Occupational Therapy Awareness observance is a chance to reflect on the misconceptions patients and others new to health care sometimes have for OT and its role on the health care team.
Here are six OT professionals, each busting a myth they’ve recently encountered on the job.
Callie Hayes is an occupational therapist who works with burn and trauma patients.
“I’m retired” or “I already have a job” are phrases I often encounter when telling patients I’m an occupational therapist.
While occupational therapy can address returning to work and work-place ergonomics, our services expand far beyond that. Our profession assists people across the lifespan to perform any aspect of their daily life. At UI Hospitals and Clinics, OTs practice in adult acute care, pediatric acute care, behavioral health, and a number of outpatient clinics.
Rachel Pins is an occupational therapist who works with stroke patients and those diagnosed with a neurological disease.
“OT? Over time? Why yes, I would love some extra pay, please!” is a response I often hear when I introduce myself to patients before I begin an initial evaluation.
An OT enables you to engage in things you need, want, or are required to do in your day; daily activities = occupations. OTs use a holistic approach to evaluating and treating patients. A few common interventions we undertake include:
- Home environment and workplace recommendations
- Implementing adaptive equipment for feeding or writing
- Splinting and upper extremity rehabilitation
- Creating individualized home exercise programs for balance and fall prevention
- Promoting health and wellness through the use of self-cares, leisure, or meaningful activities
Cori Fenton is an occupational therapy assistant who works with burn and trauma patients.
In the acute care setting we sometimes hear from other health care professionals: “Oh, you’re OT, I don’t need you, I need PT to help get a patient out of bed.”
Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are trained to safely mobilize patients. Part of the OT evaluation and treatment includes functional mobility to assist patients with regaining independence within their home.
Katie Lundquist is an occupational therapist who works with burn and trauma patients.
“My father is walking fine, why can’t he go home?”
OTs are trained to evaluate a patient’s cognitive abilities and to assess their abilities physically and mentally to care for themselves with routine tasks at home. For many of our trauma patients, OTs provide the health care team with an assessment for the patient’s next stage of care after their hospital stay. We weigh several factors before determining if a patient should be sent home or to a rehab care setting that can meet their specific physical and mental needs.
Madisson Miller is an occupational therapist who works with orthopedic and general medicine patients.
“Occupational therapy—you’re the ones who will give me a tool to help me get dressed, right?”
Although adaptive equipment is an intervention occupational therapists use, the profession also educates patients to safely complete activities of daily living. We provide precautions to help patients safely get out of bed, dress themselves, use the bathroom and shower, and do a variety of other activities. Adaptive equipment may be used to increase their independence in performing these tasks.
Bryn Kleffman is an occupational therapist who works primarily with general medicine patients.
“Occupational therapy helps you shower and brush your teeth,” is a phrase I often hear used to explain the role of occupational therapists.
There are times when these daily activities are used as interventions by occupational therapists; however, the misconception here is that these everyday activities are simple and easy for everyone to complete. Patients’ independence and participation in daily activities can be inhibited by their cognition, mental health, and physical health. Occupational therapists utilize meaningful tasks to help motivate patients and help them regain independence through completion of such tasks.
All the OT professionals agree the biggest reward they strive for each work day is helping their patients function in the activities that mean most to their everyday living.
Read more about the role of occupational therapy at the American Occupational Therapy Association website.