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April 11, 2006 > Getting You Back to the Occupation of 'Being You'

Getting You Back to the Occupation of 'Being You'

April Recognizes National Occupational Therapy Month

Think about all the day-to-day activities that you take as a given in your life - brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, getting dressed in the morning or driving your car. What if something were to happen - injury or illness for example - that made the simple daily activities difficult to accomplish?

National Occupational Therapy Month, recognized this month, honors the professionals who are there to help people regain a wide range of skills or capabilities that may have been lost or limited due to injury or illness.

"Occupational therapy involves getting you back to the occupation of 'being you' - whether you're a mom, a sister or an employee," explains Washington Hospital Occupational Therapy Coordinator Christy Casey. "It's about getting back to the activities that make you up as a person."

Occupational therapy focuses on the rehabilitation of a range of daily activities, such as eating, hygiene/grooming, bathing, dressing, using the bathroom and homemaking. Occupational therapists may help a person who has had a stroke to be able to use a fork to eat independently or teach proper body mechanics to a spine patient to prevent future injury.

"Occupational therapy is a health profession that focuses on an individual's ability to participate in daily activities and lead a purposeful life," Casey says. "There are times when a health problem or injury can prevent you from participating in life's daily activities - things such as working, driving, shopping, fixing dinner or balancing your checkbook - doing any number of important daily tasks."

At Washington Hospital, occupational therapists function as part of a multidisciplinary team, helping to teach pre-operative hip, knee, and spine classes to patients about to undergo surgery. Occupational therapists also work to keep hospital employees healthy by performing ergonomic evaluations throughout the hospital and participating in various committees.

"We treat patients throughout the hospital with a variety of diagnoses, including patients who have had strokes, pneumonia, cardiac conditions, cancer, orthopedic conditions, and other types of general medical cases," Casey says. "We also treat neurologically involved patients on an outpatient basis."

"The nature of a patient's therapy depends on the individual and their environment; occupational therapists consider the whole person when developing a therapy plan," Casey says. "Occupational therapists collaborate with physicians and other professionals to ensure a comprehensive approach."

Like many other health professions, skilled occupational therapists are in high demand, Casey says. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calls occupational therapy one of today's fastest growing careers, pointing to growing numbers of older adults and young children who need occupational therapy services.

Occupational therapists can work in a variety of settings in addition to acute care hospitals, including rehabilitation hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health, out-patient settings, schools, mental health and hand therapy clinics.

Asked why the profession is rewarding, Casey says its enjoyable helping people maintain their sense of self and independence.

"It's a career for people who want to help others," she says. "When you can help a patient get better and improve their function, it's rewarding."

"Occupational therapy addresses one of the most important aspects of rehabilitation and recovery - the return to a normal life," according to Casey.

To learn more about careers in occupational therapy or find out about how it can benefit you, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association's Web site at

For more information about the range of services and programs at Washington Hospital, visit and click on "Services & Programs."

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