Celebrating Our Occupational Therapists at Cooper

April is Occupational Therapy Month! Our thanks to Occupational Therapy Supervisor Kristie McMullen, OTR/L, and Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant Ryan Murphy, COTA/L, who took the time to answer some common questions about Occupational Therapy for our blog. And thank you to our inpatient and outpatient OT teams for all you do for our patients in their recovery!

Kristie A. McMullen, OTR/L

What is the role of occupational therapy, or OT?

The role of occupational therapy is to assist in facilitating a patient’s return to independence in their activities of daily living (ADLs), instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), and functional mobility through the use of activities that are meaningful to the patient.

Activities of daily living (ADLs) are the activities a person completes throughout the day including bathing, dressing, eating, and other self-care activities. Instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) are the activities that a person does that allow them to live independently such as cooking, cleaning, driving, and managing finances.

What is the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy?

Physical therapy (PT) assesses strength, balance, and range of motion and how those things affect a person’s mobility. OT assesses how strength, balance, and cognition impact the meaningful daily activities in someone’s life.

PT helps you get where you are going and OT helps you return to independence in the things that occupy your day.

What are the types of injuries or illnesses that require occupational therapy?

Any acute or chronic illness or injury that impedes a patient’s ability to independently complete their ADLs and IADLs. This may include trauma, orthopaedic, cardiac, and neurology patients, for example, patients who are recovering from a car accident or stroke.

Ryan Murphy, COTA/L

Do you have any specific examples of how occupational therapists work with patients- for example, types of exercises or goals that would be set for a patient?

Patients’ goals focus on the tasks that they complete in their normal daily routines. OT works to increase a patient’s ability to complete these tasks independently through teaching of compensatory strategies, increasing strength and improving balance.

What kind of training does an occupational therapist receive?

An occupational therapist requires a master’s degree and completes a hands on fieldwork experience prior to taking a national certification exam. An occupational therapy assistant requires an associate’s degree and also completes a hands on fieldwork experience prior to a national certification exam. Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are also required to complete continuing education courses throughout their career.

What does our team look like at Cooper? Can you be found inpatient and outpatient? How do those services differ?

Our inpatient OT team has 9 full time occupational therapists and 2 full time occupational therapy assistants.  Inpatient OT services focus mainly on rehabilitating patients to safely return home and complete most of their occupations (ADLs and some IADLs) where outpatient OT focuses more on fine tuning the ability to engage in all previous occupations (such as driving, working) that may not be appropriate to work on while inpatient.


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