Occupational Therapy for Recovering COVID-19 Patients

July 20, 2020
Occupational Therapy for Recovering COVID-19 Patients

Learn how occupational therapists help patients resume life as normal after long hospital stays – and how two GMercyU OT students are making their mark in OT telehealth services.

Coronavirus has been known to affect people differently. For some, it strikes hard, leading to a lengthy and painfully slow recovery in a hospital bed and possibly requiring the use of a ventilator for prolonged periods of time. When clients – particularly the elderly – are bed-ridden for multiple weeks, they can suffer a loss of strength, coordination, mobility, and daily activity independence.  In these cases, occupational therapists help clients regain their independence and safety of daily living, marking some of the final important steps before returning to life as normal, at home, and in the community.

Maintaining Safe Environments for Occupational Therapists and Patients

Occupational therapy typically requires direct physical contact to ensure a client learns proper therapeutic techniques; visits tend to be very hands-on. Using what is known of this highly contagious virus, occupational therapists have had to practice extreme caution during client visits.  Wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE), asking screening questions, and taking a client’s temperature at the beginning of each therapy session have become common practice in helping prevent the spread of the virus.

Occupational therapy services typically occur in a variety of settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, schools, or at home. COVID-19 has impacted where occupational therapists can work, with some turning to telehealth appointments to safely meet client needs.

To offer safe telehealth services, Gwynedd Mercy University Occupational Therapy students Jackie Bowes, OTS and Kerry Goldstein, OTS co-founded — in partnership with Shanna Corbin, MS, OTR/L, CHT — a telehealth occupational therapy company called Corbin Health & Rehab Group (CHRG).  

This telehealth company is advancing the delivery of occupational therapy services by providing accessible affordable services via a HIPPA-compliant platform, and it is becoming a leader in telehealth and alternative clinical fieldwork experiences for students. CHRG specializes in upper extremity rehabilitation, ergonomic consultations with focus on home and office adjustments, and home modifications. For more information, visit CHRGtherapy.com or check them out on Facebook.

How Occupational Therapists Treat COVID-19 Patients

Typically, occupational therapists use a variety of interventions and adaptations to assist clients in overcoming the loss of daily functional activities that injury, illness, developmental delay, or a disability may have caused. Occupational therapists work with clients of all ages, backgrounds, and medical diagnoses; they play a key role in helping clients reach a level of independence that allows them to live their lives to the fullest.

For those who’ve suffered a severe case of COVID-19, occupational therapy might be a necessary part of recovery, helping clients with weakness regain the ability to complete daily life activities at home, such as getting dressed or using the bathroom. Occupational therapists have knowledge of assistive devices and environmental modification that can support individuals with participation in meaningful activities.  

“In addition to the physical impact of COVID-19, those recovering face additional challenges.  Daily habits, routines, and rituals, which contribute to one’s sense of self and wellbeing, have been adversely affected by the pandemic,” said John M. Bindo, OTD, OTR/L, MHA, LNHA, an assistant professor in GMercyU’s Occupational Therapy Program.

“This disruption in everyday life accounts for growing mental health concerns. Occupational therapists are educated and well-versed in aiding those in adapting to a ‘new normal’ and establishing meaningful routines that support quality of life,” Bindo added.  

The Core Elements of Safe, Effective Occupational Therapy  

Regardless of when, where, or how occupational therapists work with clients during these challenging times, there are some elements of care they must follow, including:

  • Prioritizing the health and safety of both client and provider
  • Developing care plans and interventions that address a client’s specific daily functional needs
  • Documenting all services promptly and in appropriate detail, with a special focus on the specific interventions employed during each session
  • Including family members or caregivers in creating goals and implementing treatment and intervention plans
  • Practicing appropriate provider self-care techniques and allowing time for adequate rest

Start Your Career in Occupational Therapy at GMercyU

Occupational therapists have the opportunity to truly enhance the quality of their clients’ lives. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for occupational therapy services was expected to outpace the supply for occupational therapists in the United States. Shortages are expected to increase for all 50 states throughout 2030. With a median annual salary of nearly $85,000, occupational therapy is a rewarding career choice that allows you to make a difference and a living.  

GMercyU offers a BHS degree in occupational science that offers direct entry into our Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) graduate program, which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®). All students who major in occupational science as an undergraduate are guaranteed a place in the MSOT program as long as program requirements are met.