Happy #OT Month! This year’s slogan, “Occupational Therapy: Empowering Everyday Living” could not be a more suitable theme to celebrate our profession. Occupational therapy exemplifies the definition of empowerment: “To make able or possible, make someone stronger or more confident.” The most obvious example of how we, as occupational therapists/hand therapists, empower others is using our expertise and skill to guide our patients through recovery for an injury or illness. We can all recount numerous instances of how, through the therapeutic process, we have enabled our patients to regain motion, strength and/or provided adaptations for return to functional independence.
We also empower patients in ways not directly related to clinical care. Sometimes empowerment for everyday living comes in the form of assisting our patients to navigate the healthcare system or arrange transportation to therapy, or connecting them to community resources during difficult times. Often it is just talking to our patients, listening to their life stories and offering support when needed. How many of us have had patients share that coming to therapy is the highlight of their week? Just knowing someone is listening can be very empowering!
During the unprecedented past few years, as frontline healthcare providers, we have likely all empowered patients by relaying accurate pandemic related information, dispelling common COVID-19 myths, providing information about testing sites and maybe even helping schedule vaccination appointments. Empowering patients with information to help maneuver through a global pandemic was not a role I could have ever imagined a few years ago!
Even outside of the therapy clinic, we use our unique knowledge and skills to empower friends, family and acquaintances. Offering joint protection tips to a relative with arthritis, answering ergonomics or overuse injury questions, responding to texts from friends and family when they cut their hand or break a bone, sharing the wise warning “never punch anything harder than a pillow” and the ever-popular winter warning of “Don’t stick your hand in a snowblower!” are just a few examples.
During OT month this April, I encourage you to “reach higher” to find ways to continue to empower your patients, friends and family, both in the clinic and in the community, by sharing your unique knowledge and skills to make everyday life a little better. Happy Occupational Therapy Month!