Earth Day Ideas for Occupational Therapists

Earth Day OT

Although many OT practitioners are providing services via telehealth, working reduced hours, or not working at all during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are thousands of therapists (including me) who are still going to a physical place of work every day. We are still seeing patients who expect us to come with a plan and a purpose, and to continue helping them to get well. And what better way to foster wellness than with a day of fun, non-pandemic-related treatments?

I love incorporating holidays into my treatment sessions because I LOVE themes and getting creative! (Seriously. My husband bought me one year’s worth of holiday-themed socks for a wedding gift and I wear them ALL. THE. TIME.) With Earth Day approaching on Wednesday, April 22, OT practitioners have the opportunity to bring a joy, foster skills development, and provide education by using earth-inspired occupations as interventions.

Read on to learn how you can celebrate Earth Day with occupational therapy clients of all ages!

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Expanding Occupational Therapy’s Role in Acute Care

Acute Care OT Series 2

This is the second post in a series about occupational therapy in acute care. Read the first post in here.

One of the constant refrains of my occupational therapy program’s faculty was that we were all “change agents” with the power – and responsibility – to see and do things differently in order to achieve optimal outcomes for our patients and our profession. As a change agent, I make an effort to give my best and make positive change wherever I work, even when it’s easier to stick with the status quo. This is especially true in the acute care setting, where time, financial, and resource restraints can be huge barriers to holistic, occupation-based OT practice.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve had more meetings with management than I care to admit during my brief tenure at the hospital, typically to discuss my goals and plans of care for patients with needs that were deemed “not appropriate” to address within the acute care setting or goals that other team members “wouldn’t be able” to address after my initial evaluations (apparently because they weren’t BADL or exercise-based goals…). It hasn’t been easy, and each meeting is a valuable learning opportunity for me to learn what others think OT is or should be – and a platform for me to provide education and advocate for my profession and scope of practice. Without going into too much detail, I’ll simply say that I think there is a long way to go before truly holistic, progressive, and occupation-based occupational therapy is the norm – rather than the ideal – in most hospital settings.

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OT Observations: Bell’s Palsy Treatment with FES and Heat Modalities

Ultrasound/FES Cart
This is a combination ultrasound and FES machine (on a cart) that is very similar to the one used in the clinic where I volunteer.

Helen, the therapist I spend the most time shadowing at the outpatient clinic where I volunteer, has recently begun treating two clients with Bell’s palsy. I’ve included the Mayo Clinic’s definition of Bell’s palsy below for anyone who has not heard of it – I know I hadn’t!

“Bell’s palsy causes sudden weakness in your facial muscles. This makes half of your face appear to droop. Your smile is one-sided, and your eye on that side resists closing.

Bell’s palsy, also known as facial palsy, can occur at any age. The exact cause is unknown, but it’s believed to be the result of swlling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face. It may be a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.

For most people, Bell’s palsy is temporary. Symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in about six months. A small number of people continue to have some Bell’s palsy symptoms for life. Rarely, Bell’s palsy can recur.”



As the definition mentions, Bell’s palsy can occur as the result of a viral infection a person contracts or by some damage to or inflammation of cranial nerve VII, the facial nerve.

Interestingly, Helen has seen two very different clients with Bell’s palsy in the past few weeks. The first client is an older male who is recovering from a surgery to remove a brain tumor that happened in early March. The second person, with whom Helen is using the heat and FES modalities, is a young boy. However, in both cases the client is experiencing dry eye and difficulty moistening the eye by blinking, as the impaired nerve functioning leads to partial or full paralysis of the facial muscles around the eye. This is certainly very uncomfortable, and can be dangerous if unwanted substances enter the eye and aren’t removed by reflexive blinking and eye-watering.

These clients can also have difficulty in other functional areas. Bell’s palsy and the accompanying facial weakness or paralysis can make it difficult to drink from a cup or straw, eat in a way that is socially appropriate (i.e. with mouth closing fully during chewing and by removing all food particles from the affected side) or be comfortable interacting with others due to the facial droop and weakness preventing typical expression with the mouth and eyes.

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