Exploring Acute Care Occupational Therapists’ and Therapy Assistants’ Collaborative Practices

Louise Donnellan

Purpose: To explore collaborative practices between occupational therapists (OTs) and therapy assistants (TA) in an acute care setting.

Methods: Drawing on ethnographic principles, data was generated through semi-structured interviews with OTs (n=3) and TAs (n=3) and participant observation one OT and one TA dyad at an acute care hospital in British Columbia.

Findings: Thematic analysis identified an acute care organizational culture that was captured in two inter-related themes: ‘clearing out the beds’, and no space for the whole patient. Three themes related to collaborative practices were identified: (a) ‘there’s something missing’; (b) ‘they must think we know what to do’, and (c) ‘there is no talk of us’.

Conclusion: Collaborative practices between OTs and TAs in an acute care setting were shaped by a hierarchy of organizational values and structures that impacted the frequency and diversity of occupational therapy tasks assigned to TAs. OTs and TAs learning needs were identified.