Profession specific research

A recently published paper gave “Occupational therapy consensus recommendations for functional neurological disorder”. So what is this?

Do occupation therapists have so much more experience, knowledge etc that recommendation by them have greater credibility? Not really, and the authors included many people who were not occupational therapists (and who were experts).

Do occupational therapists have some unique knowledge or skill not possessed by other professions that makes it sensible to have occupational therapy specific recommendations? The articles defines occupational therapy thus: “The term ‘occupational’ in OT refers to any activity that has meaning and importance to an individual, based on what they need to do, want to do or are expected to do within societal and cultural norms.” , taken from this source. All members of the multidisciplinary team will be helping with exactly the same activities.

Do occupational therapists in particular need recommendations that differ from those applicable to other professions? The introduction does not explain why they should. The authors write: “OT is recognised as part of multidisciplinary intervention for FND; however, there is a limited evidence base, and the role of OT within the MDT is not well defined.” The acronym, OT, could be replaced by any other profession as all would feel the same. But, in a true team, role boundaries should be and are indistinct.

I think that all three questions can be answered with a NO!

I will, now, emphasise that I am fully in support of the profession of occupational therapy. I am, at present at least, an honorary member of the College of Occupational Therapists. I know that occupational therapists have areas of specific knowledge and skills, where they have more expertise than other members of the team. But other team members will have some of the knowledge and skills. The exact areas of relative strength or weakness will differ differently in different team, countries etc.

Nevertheless, n rehabilitation, it is time to move away from trying to research the effect of a specific profession. There is no fixed definition for any profession within a team.

Nicholson C, Edwards MJ, Carson AJ, et al
Occupational therapy consensus recommendations for functional neurological disorder
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 2020;91:1037-1045.

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