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Understanding the role of Occupational therapy in emergency departments before and after COVID-19

COVID-19 Research Area(s): Healthcare Delivery & Policy

The purpose of this project is to understand the current and future role of occupational therapy in Canadian emergency departments. This project will create best practice recommendations to be tested in a future study.

In the last fifty years, and now with the onset of COVID-19, emergency departments (EDs) around the world have witnessed increasing numbers of patients requiring medical attention alongside population growth (Pines, 2006; Drummond, 2002; Working Group for Achieving Quality in Emergency Departments, 2009, Moore et al., 2017; Rehmani & Norain, 2007; Unwin et al., 2016). This has resulted in overcrowding, increased wait times, impaired patient-centred-care, health provider burnout, and disrupted best practices (Moskop et al., 2009). An opportunity exists to consider novel solutions to support the efficiency of the ED, alleviate overcrowding, and improve patient experiences and outcomes. One discipline that could address these issues is occupational therapy; however, there is globally a lack of consensus on the role and effectiveness in EDs. Through the Arskey and O’Malley scoping review framework (Arskey & O’Malley, 2005; Levac et al. 2010), we have conducted a scoping review of the literature to inform this query by summarizing the current evidence describing the role and effectiveness of occupational therapists working in EDs worldwide. For the sixth and final stage of the scoping review, we will consult occupational therapists who work in Canadian EDs through semi-structured interviews.

Aims: The aim of the semi-structured interviews is to explore and compare the perceived role and effectiveness of Canadian occupational therapists working in the ED. Preliminary findings from the scoping review have guided the questions that will be posed as a part of the semi-structured interview. Interviews will provide an invaluable opportunity to build upon the current evidence base, identify gaps in the literature, and provide insight into pragmatic occupational therapy practice in the ED.

Research Method: We will use a semi-structured interview as the principal method of data collection, augmented by interview reflections and observation notes. Insights gained from these interviews will enhance the validity of our scoping review of occupational therapy in the ED. The interviews will expand upon the limited knowledge of the occupational therapist role in Canadian EDs and provide a foundation to support subsequent research on their effectiveness. Knowledge-translation from the scoping review will integrate it into occupational therapy communities.