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Occupational therapists bring value to workplace

occupational therapy

Among the health professions, occupational therapists are poised to be highly impactful allies for families, workers and employers. They are trained to help people achieve the highest potential possible by playing to their unique strengths as they relate to specific environments and desired activities. Occupational therapy is the newest and fastest-growing department at Mana­kai o Malama. A heightened level of awareness both in the workplace and among other health professionals will bear much fruit for all parties as it enhances health outcomes, quality of life, productivity and job satisfaction.

OTs are trained to "assist clients (people, organizations, and populations) to engage in everyday activities or occupations that they want and need to do in a manner that supports health and participation," according to the American Occupational Therapy Association.

"Most people with a basic knowledge of occupational therapy can quickly understand the role we play with individuals, but it is the role with organizations and populations that employers and even health care providers find difficult to grasp," according to occupational therapist Hilary Valentine. How can an occupational therapist work with an organization or business to support health and participation?

Occupational therapists evaluate businesses to identify factors that will optimize health, productivity and routines of employees by addressing three areas that can affect participation: the occupation itself, the environment and the worker.

1. First, OTs analyze what employees do and how they carry out their jobs. They consider work schedules, specific tasks being performed, and strive to match individual skills with job duties.

2. They also evaluate environmental factors affecting health and participation in job tasks. This includes ergonomic assessments and recommendations to reduce injury and illness.

3. OTs study human factors in each situation. They are uniquely trained to assist businesses to identify problems and solutions for balance among work, lei­sure and family life for improved well-being of their employees. Health is the result of a balanced engagement in work, leisure and family life. Recommendations to achieve this among employees may include education, health initiatives and preventive services in the workplace.

The range of applications includes:

Rehab of arms and hands (for example, upper extremities): OTs provide specialized physical rehabilitation of the hands and arms for problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow and the full range of shoulder injuries. The rehab process involves not simply treating the injured body part, but also analyzing the cause of the injury and understanding clients' needs and expectations as regards to activities of daily living. The OT scope, however, goes far beyond upper extremity rehabilitation.

Traumatic brain injury: OTs also routinely work with those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. For some, especially those who have had a bleed in the brain, injuries might be permanent. The majority of those with TBI, however, have suffered what amounts to a bruise on the brain. This can take many months to resolve. A great deal of education is needed for all concerned to understand and cope with memory loss, emotional factors and the experience of fatigue as patients gradually attempt to return to usual and customary activities.

Chronic pain: In addition to physical pain, chronic pain patients face disability, functional limitations, employment challenges, financial setbacks and social repercussions, and almost invariably even the strong­est person succumbs to depression. OTs are sensitive to the myriad issues facing chronic pain patients and can engage in skills training to alleviate suffering.

Weight management and diabetes: Lifestyle optimization for weight management including coaching and goal-setting for diet and physical activity is critical to success. One of Hawaii's largest hospitals is looking at using OTs to support patient compliance for those who have already completed a well-honed weight management program. Success benefits from skillful, professional reinforcement in addition to education.

Navigators for multidisciplinary care: While OTs have traditionally focused on skills training and daily activities at home and at work, they also have an important role to play in assisting clients to optimize their access in an increasingly complicated and fragmented health care system. Educating patients to understand the role of each provider and the ability to modulate expectations in a multidisciplinary care plan will enhance outcomes and optimize quality of care. Occupational therapy is one profession that is poised to help achieve the three principal aims for health care in the United States: access and quality at a reasonable cost.

OTs are well equipped in the promotion of health and wellness with knowledge of psychosocial, physical, environmental and cultural perspectives that influence performance. It is prime time for occupational therapists and informed business owners to collaborate to optimize employee health.

Ira Zunin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., is medical director of Manakai o Malama Integrative Healthcare Group and Rehabilitation Center and CEO of Global Advisory Services Inc. Please submit your questions to 

Among the health professions, occupational therapists are poised to be highly impactful allies for families, workers and employers. They are trained to help people achieve the highest potential possible by playing to their unique strengths as they relate to specific environments and desired activities. Occupational therapy is the newest and fastest-growing department at Mana­kai o Malama. A heightened level of awareness both in the workplace and among other health professionals will bear much fruit for all parties as it enhances health outcomes, quality of life, productivity and job satisfaction.

OTs are trained to "assist clients (people, organizations, and populations) to engage in everyday activities or occupations that they want and need to do in a manner that supports health and participation," according to the American Occupational Therapy Association.

"Most people with a basic knowledge of occupational therapy can quickly understand the role we play with individuals, but it is the role with organizations and populations that employers and even health care providers find difficult to grasp," according to occupational therapist Hilary Valentine. How can an occupational therapist work with an organization or business to support health and participation?

Occupational therapists evaluate businesses to identify factors that will optimize health, productivity and routines of employees by addressing three areas that can affect participation: the occupation itself, the environment and the worker.

1. First, OTs analyze what employees do and how they carry out their jobs. They consider work schedules, specific tasks being performed, and strive to match individual skills with job duties.

2. They also evaluate environmental factors affecting health and participation in job tasks. This includes ergonomic assessments and recommendations to reduce injury and illness.

3. OTs study human factors in each situation. They are uniquely trained to assist businesses to identify problems and solutions for balance among work, lei­sure and family life for improved well-being of their employees. Health is the result of a balanced engagement in work, leisure and family life. Recommendations to achieve this among employees may include education, health initiatives and preventive services in the workplace.

The range of applications includes:

Rehab of arms and hands (for example, upper extremities): OTs provide specialized physical rehabilitation of the hands and arms for problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow and the full range of shoulder injuries. The rehab process involves not simply treating the injured body part, but also analyzing the cause of the injury and understanding clients' needs and expectations as regards to activities of daily living. The OT scope, however, goes far beyond upper extremity rehabilitation.

Traumatic brain injury: OTs also routinely work with those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. For some, especially those who have had a bleed in the brain, injuries might be permanent. The majority of those with TBI, however, have suffered what amounts to a bruise on the brain. This can take many months to resolve. A great deal of education is needed for all concerned to understand and cope with memory loss, emotional factors and the experience of fatigue as patients gradually attempt to return to usual and customary activities.

Chronic pain: In addition to physical pain, chronic pain patients face disability, functional limitations, employment challenges, financial setbacks and social repercussions, and almost invariably even the strong­est person succumbs to depression. OTs are sensitive to the myriad issues facing chronic pain patients and can engage in skills training to alleviate suffering.

Weight management and diabetes: Lifestyle optimization for weight management including coaching and goal-setting for diet and physical activity is critical to success. One of Hawaii's largest hospitals is looking at using OTs to support patient compliance for those who have already completed a well-honed weight management program. Success benefits from skillful, professional reinforcement in addition to education.

Navigators for multidisciplinary care: While OTs have traditionally focused on skills training and daily activities at home and at work, they also have an important role to play in assisting clients to optimize their access in an increasingly complicated and fragmented health care system. Educating patients to understand the role of each provider and the ability to modulate expectations in a multidisciplinary care plan will enhance outcomes and optimize quality of care. Occupational therapy is one profession that is poised to help achieve the three principal aims for health care in the United States: access and quality at a reasonable cost.

OTs are well equipped in the promotion of health and wellness with knowledge of psychosocial, physical, environmental and cultural perspectives that influence performance. It is prime time for occupational therapists and informed business owners to collaborate to optimize employee health.

Ira Zunin, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., is medical director of Manakai o Malama Integrative Healthcare Group and Rehabilitation Center and CEO of Global Advisory Services Inc.

Source: Star-Advertiser

 


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