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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Happy Occupational Therapy Month!


What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is a holistic, dynamic health care profession dedicated to helping people engage in meaningful occupations or activities to promote and enhance their overall quality of life. Occupations consist of any daily activity that occurs at any point during the day and holds value for the individual. Simply put, occupations include anything that occupies your time. Examples of occupations include bathing, dressing, eating, driving, working, going to school, social interaction, participating in sports and leisure activities, and even sleep.

How does occupational therapy help people?

Occupational therapists work with people across the lifespan in various ways.

They can help people with physical injuries, disabilities or illnesses adapt to their condition and learn to do their daily occupations more independently. Occupational therapy can also help with cognitive conditions and developmental differences so that the individual can improve their participation and independence. Another way that OT can help people is by addressing their social-emotional well-being and mental health challenges.

This article will provide an example of occupational therapy across the continuum of care to give a better idea of its role.

Let’s take a common diagnosis seen in occupational therapy: Cerebral Vascular Accident (stroke).

Mr. Smith was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) immediately following a massive stroke. The occupational therapist evaluated him in the ICU and observed that he had right hemiparesis and was unable to move his right arm and leg actively. He also demonstrated decreased sitting balance, cognitive deficits, visual deficits and difficulty swallowing. The occupational therapist initially focused on properly positioning the right extremities to help with swelling, sitting balance while completing simple grooming tasks while sitting on the edge of the bed, and introducing functional transfers to the bedside commode for toileting.

As Mr. Smith transitioned to the acute care setting, OT continued to treat him and address his decreased sensation in his right arm, educated him on completing simple dressing tasks using a one-handed technique using his left arm, and continued work toward safe, functional transfers to the bedside commode for increased independence with toileting. Mr. Smith remained in acute care for two days before transferring to the inpatient rehabilitation setting, where he began receiving rehabilitation services for three hours a day.

Occupational therapists worked with Mr. Smith five days a week for one hour daily. During this time, the occupational therapist could work on numerous occupations that were important to Mr. Smith, including bathing, dressing, eating, grooming, toileting, meal preparation and home management, including doing laundry. After two weeks of receiving services in inpatient rehabilitation, Mr. Smith was discharged home with his daughter and scheduled to continue receiving therapy services at the local outpatient clinic.

In outpatient therapy, the occupational therapist worked with Mr. Smith to improve movement and use of his right arm and to increase independence with his home tasks by incorporating adaptive equipment and techniques and working on his cognitive abilities to allow for greater independence with meaningful work tasks.

Throughout the continuum of care, occupational therapy focuses on remediating function, maintaining function, adapting or incorporating compensatory techniques, preventing further functional decline, and promoting overall health and wellness and quality of life.

Where do occupational therapists work?

Occupational therapists work in several different settings, including hospitals (intensive care units, acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, longterm acute care hospitals), skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics (adult and pediatric), home health, school systems, community centers and more.

How to become an occupational therapy practitioner?

There are two routes to becoming an Occupational Therapy Practitioner.

1.) Occupational Therapy Assistant (C/OTA) – Becoming an OTA includes two to four years of undergraduate education within an accredited OTA program. Upon completion of the program, individuals are required to pass the national board exam to become licensed. OTAs work under the supervision of and in collaboration with the occupational therapist. OTAs play a vital role in the occupational therapy process. There are two OTA program options in north Louisiana, including programs at Bossier Parish Community College and the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM).

2.) Occupational Therapist – Currently, there are three options for becoming an occupational therapist, including obtaining a master’s degree or an entry-level doctoral degree. Within Louisiana, individuals can earn their Master of Occupational Therapy from ULM and LSU Health New Orleans or their Doctor of Occupational Therapy from LSU Health Shreveport (LSUHS).

LSUHS is the first program in the state to offer a doctoral degree and will graduate their first cohort in May of 2025. The Doctor of Occupational Therapy program is a three-year program that includes two years of didactic education and one year of clinical education, including fieldwork education and a capstone experience.

If you would like to learn more about the field of occupational therapy or the OTD program at LSU Health Shreveport, visit our website: www.lsuhs.edu/OT

Rebecca Wilder, DrOT, LOTR, is an academic fieldwork coordinator and assistant professor of occupational therapy at LSU Health Shreveport.


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