Occupational Therapy Week: What do occupational therapists do?

Occupational Therapy Week: What do occupational therapists do?

Small change, big impactThe 2nd to the 6th November is Occupational Therapy Week. Normally, we’d be enticing you to find out more about Occupational Therapy (OT) with an information stand and cakes at the main entrance of the hospital, but the current situation sadly precludes us from doing so. However, as a department, we wanted to take this opportunity to shout (from a distance) about what we believe to be the best profession in the world!

To understand what an occupational therapist does, it is important to first understand the meaning of “occupation”. In our role, an occupation refers to any activity that our patients want or need to do to function throughout a normal day. Although everyone’s occupations vary, they generally fall within the categories of work, leisure, and self-care. For example, each morning we wake up and have a shower (self-care), drive the car or ride the bus to our jobs (work), and come home to have dinner and watch television or read a book (leisure). We often take for granted how challenging it can be for our patients to complete these seemingly basic occupations if they have a physical or psychological barrier to overcome. As acute occupational therapists, we can assess our patients to identify their barriers to occupation and provide creative solutions to overcome them through the provision of adaptive aids and equipment, packages of care, referring onward to the appropriate community services, and educating families and carers.

At University Hospitals Plymouth, we work in a number of specialities including hand therapy, health care of the elderly, general medicine and surgery, trauma and orthopaedics, stroke, neurosurgery, and admissions avoidance within emergency care. Although each of these specialities has a unique impact on a patient’s journey, we all share the same core principle: to utilise a holistic (physical and mental) approach to enable a patient to achieve their full potential and remain as independent as possible. Whilst occupational therapy is only a small part of the patient journey, a small change can create a big impact on health, wellbeing, and reduce the number of hospital admissions.