When working in an orthopedic trauma unit, occupational therapists (OTs) often treat patients with soft tissue damage and one or more fractures. Like other occupational therapy practices, OTs are responsible for supporting their patients to achieve the best possible functional independence and recovery throughout all healing stages.
Treatment often begins with gathering all patient-related health information. Information may include things like the nature of the injury, such as the force of the impact or mechanism of injury. Perhaps the patient has significant soft tissue damage that may require debridement, skin grafting or surgical fixation. Rehabilitation may be substantially different for two people given the same diagnoses, so OTs must have a good understanding of each patient's health information.
Generally speaking, when OTs assess their patients, they are examining limitations in their occupational performance. More specifically, OTs gather information to understand how the patient's injury affects their ability to participate in activities they want or need to do. Every patient requires an individualized assessment because their occupational performance issues are specific to them. Although there is no one-size-fits-all assessment, the Functional Independence Measure (FIM) is commonly used to examine a patient's functional status. The FIM assesses six areas of function: self-care (eating, dressing, etc.), sphincter control, transfers, locomotion, communication, and social cognition.
Depending on the injury, an OT will likely intervene using one or more of the following approaches.
modify the home environment
measure and fit a patient to a wheelchair to improve their mobility
design and create custom orthotics
educate patients on strategies to carry out meaningful activities
activities of daily living training
return to work planning
Reference: Mooney, Madeleine, and Claire Ireson. Occupational Therapy in Orthopaedics and Trauma. John Wiley & Sons, 2013.