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The evolving role of occupational therapists in adult critical care in England: A mixed methods design using role theory

Algeo, N. & Aitken, L. M. ORCID: 0000-0001-5722-9090 (2019). The evolving role of occupational therapists in adult critical care in England: A mixed methods design using role theory. Irish Journal of Occupational Therapy, 47(2), pp. 74-94. doi: 10.1108/ijot-04-2019-0005


Purpose: A recent paradigm-shift in patient care advocates for long-term recovery and quality of life in survivors of critical illness. Evidence suggests that occupational therapists in critical care can contribute to recovery in areas such as functional outcomes, length of stay and delirium, although poor role understanding can limit service-utilisation. The purpose of this study is to investigate current and future roles and practices of critical care occupational therapists in the UK.

Design/methodology/approach: Occupational therapists with clinical experience in adult critical care were invited to participate in a mixed-methods design using a locally developed online questionnaire and semi-structured interviews, concurrently. Descriptive statistics were generated through SPSS. Qualitative data were analysed using the framework approach.

Findings: Twelve occupational therapists participated in the survey element, with five continuing to interview. Occupational therapists described a multifaceted role in critical care where the majority reported practice in upper limb function, seating/positioning, cognition, psychosocial sequelae and discharge planning. Role and internal characteristics impacted on service delivery. It is envisaged that earlier intervention in a greater percentage of patients, a greater evidence-base, raising awareness and adequate staffing will be features for future development.

Originality/value: This study provides new insight into the current role and practices of adult critical care occupational therapists in England and generates insights into their role in addressing physical and non-physical morbidity for this patient cohort. Findings are preliminary in nature; however, future research is warranted to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Published in Irish Journal of Occupational Therapy. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at
Publisher Keywords: Rehabilitation, Occupational therapy, Role theory, Critical care
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
SWORD Depositor:
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