What does an Occupational Therapist do in an Acute Setting?

Did you know that hospitals are one of the largest employers of occupational therapists (OTs). Acute care is a category which entails the treatment of sudden, serious injury and illness. Typically, OTs work with people in an acute setting who have experienced an incident ranging from strokes, acute mental health issues, to falls, or a road traffic collision – to name a few.

From a therapeutic standpoint, it is the priority of the OT to work as part of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) in stabilising the patient, enabling early mobilisation, engage in therapeutic activities and create discharge plans. The multi-disciplinary team may incorporate a range of other health care professionals – including nurses, speech and language therapists, physiotherapist, social workers, doctors, therapy assistants, etc.

Some common responsibilities of an OT in an acute setting may include:

  • Assessing any requirement from a positioning perspective – this may include splinting, using positioning aids, education on position in profiling beds and cushion or mattress prescription.
  • Conducting cognitive assessments to determine if a person is ready to engage in therapeutic activities and to help to determine current level of functioning.
  • Assessing a client’s mobility – this may require prescription of a wheelchair. Furthermore, the OT may liaise with a physiotherapist if a walking aid is required.
  • Education of the client and their family around mobility, self-care activities, leisure activities, productive activities and any goals set out during therapy.
  • Setting therapy goals with the client in a collaborative way.
  • Discharge planning – this may include meetings with family members and other health care professionals to help determine the next steps. This may include a discharge home, an onward referral to a sub-acute or step-down unit, a referral to community teams or any other relevant organisations or support groups.
  • Daily living -finally, it is the responsibility of the OT to ensure the person can meet all the activities of daily living either independently or with the help of a carer or family member.

As you can see, OTs provide vital support in a variety of settings, particularly acute care. From cognitive assessments to prescribing equipment and setting therapy goals – OTs will help work towards the best outcome.