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Occupational Therapists Help Sepsis Survivors

April 14, 2020

April is Occupational Therapy (OT) Month. Occupational therapists play an important role in helping their patients regain function or perform activities of daily living with tools adapted to help them function. They often work alongside physical therapists (PTs). While the PTs help patients regain mobility and function, OTs help with the more detailed tasks, like getting dressed, eating, and so on. They can work with young children right through the spectrum of life to seniors.

Occupational therapists role after hospitalization

Given that many sepsis survivors live with long-lasting effects from their illness, such as chronic pain or amputations, they may need an OT after discharge to help them adapt to their “new normal.”  An article published in 2018 discussed the need for OT and other therapies for sepsis survivors. In it, the author wrote that in order to minimize the effect of post-sepsis syndrome, “At discharge, screen for new functional or cognitive impairments; consider referral to physical or occupational therapy.”

Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings. They can work in hospitals or healthcare facilities, clinics, and in the community. When a patient returns home or to work, an OT may visit the home or office to assess the patient’s needs and make recommendations to encourage a safe and functional environment. Therapists can recommend braces, tools, special seating in wheelchairs, and much more. They are not limited to helping with physical challenges, however. Occupational therapists can also work in the field of mental health. When working with patients in this setting, OTs can help them learn basic skills, such as how to use public transportation, or how to grocery shop.

Occupational therapists’ role during hospitalization

The work of an OT is also valuable while patients are treated in the hospital. In 2009, The Lancet published an article reviewing the role of OTs and PTs among patients on ventilators in an intensive care unit (ICU). The small study included 104 patients. The researchers looked at the effect of the therapies on the patients during the ICU stay and after discharge. The researchers found that patients who received therapy while in the ICU had shorter periods of delirium than patients who did not have therapy. The patients were on ventilators for fewer days and were more likely to be independently functional after they left the hospital.

Sepsis Alliance would like to recognize the hard work of the entire healthcare team, including occupational therapists.

To learn more about sepsis and related issues, please visit the Sepsis and… library.