Role of Occupational Therapy in Outpatient Orthopedics

  • September 26, 2018

Role of Occupational Therapy in Outpatient Orthopedics

OrthopedicsBY GLORIA, OTR/L

Occupational therapy (OT) is a profession that helps patients across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (also known as occupations).  OT practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and live better with an injury, illness or disability. Occupational therapists work in many different practice settings including outpatient facilities, hospitals, day care facilities, nursing homes, schools, universities, community centers and workplaces.

In an outpatient orthopedic setting, occupational therapy’s major focus is rehabilitation related to impairments of the upper extremity—which includes shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist and hand. As mentioned above, the role of OT is to return the client to meaningful participation in his or her daily activities. One might be thinking “how is this different from physical therapy”? While both roles provide essential hands-on rehabilitative work to help clients perform everyday tasks as independently as possible, each field takes a diverse approach in helping people get back to their usual way of life. An occupational therapist treats the whole person. Occupational therapy professionals receive a strong educational component in psychosocial development and pathology. This provides the basis for understanding the impact of upper extremity dysfunction on key daily activities and roles. Course work in mental health gives occupational therapists the skills to evaluate clients’ psychosocial and emotional needs and modify the treatment approach to promote the best outcome possible.







Evidence indicates that clients view themselves in relation to their occupational abilities and roles. Injuries and conditions that interfere with life roles, habits, time use, activity patterns, occupational experiences, and full participation will create a sense of dysfunction and yearning for normalcy (Custer, Huebner, & Howell, 2014).  Incorporating “usual and customary” occupational activities into treatment and focusing goals on enabling performance of those activities provides benefits to clients, including preserving roles and habits, increasing motivation for therapy, and making the patient a partner in his or her rehab.

The ultimate goal of occupation-based hand therapy is to ensure that the rehabilitation process promotes healing while enabling clients to perform meaningful activities not only in the clinic, but in their daily lives as well. The occupation-based approach results in positive outcomes for clients, enhances their satisfaction with therapy and results, and maintains their ability to engage in desired roles within their friend/family circle and community. Most importantly, it helps the patient experience quality of life as they define it.

By: Gloria Rinonos, MS, OTR/L


AOTA (2017). The unique role of occupational therapy in rehabilitation of the hand. Retrieved                from:           therapy.aspx

Case-Smith, J. (2003). Outcomes in hand rehabilitation using occupational therapy services.         American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 57, 499–506.

Custer, M. G., Huebner, R. A., & Howell, D. M. (2014). Factors predicting client satisfaction in               occupational therapy and rehabilitation. American Journal of Occupational Therapy,        69, 6901290040p1–6901290040p10.

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