Occupational Therapists Learn What Prosthetists Want

Diane Atkins, OTR/L, FISPO
Diane Atkins

CHICAGO — The industry standard for upper extremity patient care must be complete collaboration between O&P practitioners and occupational therapists — there is no other way, according to the Upper Limb Prosthetics Society panel at The American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium.

“This is our time, the right time, to create a unique and positive synergy for everyone to benefit,” Diane Atkins, OTR/L, FISPO, said.

Atkins surveyed members of each discipline, sending four questions to 20 prosthetists and four to 20 occupational therapists (OTs), all concerning ways to build bridges between the two disciplines.

Of those who responded, both prosthetists and OTs commented on the importance of cooperation and collaboration between the two disciplines.

Another prosthetist advised colleagues not to assume that OTs understand the O&P profession, and vice versa. Both should take the time needed to learn from each other in order to better treat patients.

Atkins said the OTs were just as gracious. The OTs who responded mirrored the sentiment of the practitioners, and emphasized each advocating the other’s skills to patients and becoming involved in the education of students of the other’s discipline.

One prosthetist wrote, “I am only a quarter of the prosthetist I can be when I work with an OT.” Atkins said she felt humbled by this statement.

Likewise, an OT wrote, “I am a much better therapist when I work closely with a prosthetist.”


“Several people addressed the problem of education of OTs in this sector … We need at least a day-long module that’s a standard, recommended part of the OT education program, and I think it needs to be created by a small committee of OT educators and prosthetic and orthotic educators … You can’t just have another PowerPoint presentation. If you don’t personally interact with people, how are you going to learn these skills?

The other thing that I think is, if the prescribing physician hasn’t prescribed occupational therapy, the prosthetist has an obligation to say, ‘The prescription isn’t complete. We need that prescription for occupational therapy.’ I don’t think a lot of prosthetists understand what the written prescription ought to be, so maybe there needs to be a way so that we’re all aware of what [occupational therapists] would like that prescription to look like.”

— T. Walley Williams, III, MA
Director of product development, Liberating Technologies

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