TRUE STORY: Due to God’s wonderful sense of humor, on the same day I was writing this post I experienced a perfect example of just how fun (and by fun I mean ABSOLUTELY GROSS) it is to work with kids in any setting!
I knew when I chose this career that working in healthcare – especially as an occupational therapist – would put me in close proximity to many unsanitary situations. However, my academic and professional experiences in schools, SNFs, hospitals, and retirement communities have given me a new perspective on the importance of maintaining a hygienic therapeutic environment as an OT.
Earlier this year, a kindergartner at one of my schools had a bowel accident and came down to my room for help because the school nurse and social worker were gone. I asked him to go into the bathroom and get cleaned up while I found him some clean clothes to change into. When he was done, he opened the door and tried to hand me his heavily soiled underwear and pants. I quickly ushered him back into the bathroom, where I reminded him to flush the toilet (which he did with his hand) and helped him bag up his soiled clothes. When we were done, he tried to leave the bathroom without washing his hands. When I asked him to wash his hands, he got some soap, quickly rinsed it off, dried his hands and left. And for all I know, all the rest of my little friends are doing the exact same thing before they come to see me!
This was an extreme example of just how dirty a job as a school-based OT can be, but for many clinicians this sort of situation is a regular occurrence. And for many others, it may be an everyday occurrence that they’re just not aware of…So no matter where you work, hygiene for yourself and your clients is crucial.
Much of this information will probably come as second nature to OT practitioners working in hospital environments, as there are generally much stricter sanitation regulations than there are in other settings. But even if you work in settings where you aren’t regularly providing interventions related to toileting or other self-care tasks that might put you in direct contact with bodily fluids, good hygiene is still something you can promote in in your daily practice.
After the jump, read 6 tips that demonstrate how making changes to the person, environment, or occupation can help clean up bad hygiene habits and improve your therapy practice!