Happy OT Month 2021: Appreciating Occupational Therapists During Covid-19

Last Updated on November 29, 2021

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Happy OT Month 2021! April is Occupational Therapy Month, and we’re joining in the celebration of America’s ‘Behind-the-Scenes Heroes’! On behalf of everyone of everyone on the CareerStaff team, we want to say THANK YOU to all the amazing, hard-working OTs in the CareerStaff Unlimited network, and everywhere else, too. You are appreciated!

Often overlooked in their behind-the-scenes and post-recovery roles, occupational therapists are among healthcare’s most essential workers. And this has become clearer than ever before during the Covid-19 pandemic, when OTs have stepped up in remarkable ways.

Occupational Therapy During COVID-19

Therapists like Alli Greene, who works in Nebraska, have found that their specialties put them in the line of Covid-19 care. A specialist in lymphedema, or chronic swelling, Greene began treating Covid-19 patients about a month into the pandemic, as those recovering from the virus needed help physically recovering from the virus itself as well as the ventilators they often needed for that recovery.

Explaining that some Covid-19 patients who’d been on ventilators for an extended period “couldn’t even lift their arms off the bed,” Greene recently recalled those earliest days of the pandemic for the Fremont Tribune.

“To come in, in the morning, and find out that one of your patients that you’ve worked with a lot has passed — and that happened every single day — that is emotionally fatiguing,” she said. “Nurses are trained in school about dealing with death and dying,” she said, “but that was really new to us in the therapy world.”

It isn’t just for post-recovery therapy that OTs have been stepping up during the pandemic. The authors of a recent research article published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy also point out the “distinct value” that OTs provide in caring for Covid-19 patients, as well as helping shape a forward-thinking strategy for how we respond to “future health care crises.”

And, as some experts have pointed out, the isolation of Covid-19 treatment, as well as the length and the intensity of the recovery process, can contribute to delirium in patients. By helping to nurture vocational and cognitive and visual skills, occupational therapists are helping to help patients deal with this added strain of recovery.
There’s more. When helping patients recover, therapists have to deal with the added task of careful monitoring for remission — a real concern with Covid-19 patients. “For instance, a COVID’s patient’s vital signs might look good while therapists were working with them, but then the patient’s oxygen level would drop right afterward,” as the Tribune article notes.

Celebrating the ‘Behind-The-Scenes Heroes’

Describing Greene as one of the pandemic’s “behind-the-scenes heroes,” the Fremont Tribune also praised her work and that of all occupational therapists as a “vital role in the fierce battle against a deadly virus and its heart-wrenching effects.”

“They’re the hidden heroes,” agreed Dr. Joseph Lashley in a conversation with Houston’s KHOU 11. “The physical therapists, the occupational therapists, the rehabilitation hospital.” As an ER doctor who also spent 39 days in the ICU with Covid-19 last year, and months after that regaining his mobility, Dr. Lashley is in the position to understand this better than many others.

Yet despite this recognition, OTs still face their share of challenges during the time of Covid-19. These challenges include the risks that other frontline workers face — the heightened risk of contracting Covid-19, PPE shortages, and constantly changing policies and procedures, for instance.

But there are other difficulties that have hit occupational therapy harder than other professions, like the loss of jobs caused by the closure of nursing and long-term care facilities where OTs and OTAs often work.

High levels of unemployment in the U.S. caused by the pandemic means that people have less healthcare insurance, which is usually the deciding factor whether they undertake the sequence of appointments that OT usually requires. Covid-19 patients may not have the choice, but those with minor injuries may elect to simply ignore the OT phase of their recovery.

Some workers have also been “redeployed into labor pools” or as “temperature screeners, PPE observers, blood bank runners, scrub distribution center helpers, and care support providers on COVID-19 cohort units,” note the authors of the AJOT study. Others have been retrained to work in acute care to help treat critically ill patients — an experience that’s usually beyond the scope of their original duties.

Happy OT Month 2021 From CareerStaff!

It’s the hope of organizations like the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) that, during OT Month 2021, these challenges are now in the rearview mirror as the worst of the pandemic is put behind us. To help make that happen, the association is sponsoring a series of virtual CE programs to “equip occupational therapy practitioners, educators, and students to navigate through the evolving coronavirus pandemic,” per AOTA’s website.

At the moment, the organization has halted member-only access to all Covid-19 webinars, which are worth 1 to 1.5 contact hours per session. You can find more details here.

As one of the nation’s leading recruiters of occupational therapists and assistants, we’re happy to wish everyone in our network Happy OT Month 2021! Please join us in thanking these important healthcare professionals working so hard being the Covid-19 frontlines.

And if you’re an occupational therapist seeking new career opportunities, we’ve got a bunch of those, too! You can browse all OT job opportunities here, or fill out an online application here.

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Remember, your safety is our top priority. We’ve implemented advanced procedures for ensuring safety to our healthcare professionals — and we’re continuously improving them based on constant feedback. You can read more about our Covid-19 safety policies here.

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