Occupational health care professionals offer a unique suite of services for patients whose injuries (or degenerative diseases) have caused them to lose the ability to perform work-related or leisure activities. What sets occupational therapists apart is their unique training in using techniques that help patients resume the activities they enjoy doing (or need to do for work). Successfully administering these techniques often requires specialized equipment, too. Below are a few techniques and devices that help occupational therapists with their treatment and training programs:
These devices measure the air capacity of the lungs and are especially helpful for patients recovering from injuries to the chest or ribcage. Rib fractures can compromise a person’s ability to breathe, so occupational therapists will often use a technique called incentive spirometry (IS), a form of lung expansion therapy, to help the patient restore maximum breathing capacity. Using a reliable spirometer, occupational therapists ask patients to perform maximum inspiration (inhale), and then to hold the breath for 5-10 seconds. The device can systematically help patients improve their maximum lung capacity over time. Using a spirometer routinely can also help prevent mucus build-up over time and make it easier for patients to breathe. Spirometry is often used to detect chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and even asthma, so it is a good tool for occupational therapists to keep on hand.
2. Medical Screenings:
Well-trained occupational therapists measure patients’ progress over time using routine medical screenings—this helps to ensure that the practitioners remain accountable and further ensures that patients are steadily improving over time as a result of the occupational health program. Medical screenings are one of the most effective techniques used in evidence-based practices because they yield objective data. These screenings usually rely on specific tools, such as vision screeners, to keep track of patients’ progress. Good-quality vision screeners that check for a variety of eye-related problems are particularly helpful for patients suffering from macular degeneration or any structural damage to the eye caused by an injury. Checking for general eye health is never a bad idea anyway, so many occupational therapists will incorporate eye screenings into their general physical assessments in the initial appointments with patients.
3. Patient-Centered Care:
Perhaps the most effective technique used by occupational therapists is their emphasis on individualized treatment plans. The best occupational therapists will tailor their approaches to each individual’s unique goals and objectives based on the activities he/she performs in daily life. Usually, a therapist will spend time designing specific treatment protocols for patients that mimic the activities they will ultimately want to participate in. This can even take place in settings outside the clinic, or in the patient’s home. The goal is to ensure that the patient will be able to easily transition from the therapeutic exercises to the real-world activities. Due to the practical, applicable nature of their treatment practices, occupational therapists are often well-positioned to be advocates for their patients and to provide encouragement. This is significant because some studies have shown that patients who maintain a positive outlook throughout their care are able to recover faster than those who don’t!