Why School-Based OTs Must Understand Evidence-Based Practice
Find out How EBP Helps You Better Serve Your Students and Your Field
“And is it helping?”
As a school-based occupational therapist (OT), that’s a question you’ll be expected to answer time and again.
And understandably so. Parents and guardians, teachers, school psychologists, and administrators all want to know whether the OT interventions you provide make a positive difference for students living with disabilities and disorders.
That’s why evidence-based OT practice is so important. When you understand and implement evidence-based practice (EBP), you can always answer that question with confidence and authority.
At Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), our commitment to best practices and long-term solutions means we endorse and encourage EBP. We know it’s a reliable way to deliver innovative, effective programming in all types of school-based therapy. EBP guides sound clinical decision-making, ensures students receive the most appropriate interventions, and highlights OT’s distinct value.
What Is Evidence-Based Practice?
“Occupational therapy is a science-driven profession,” the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) reminds practitioners. EBP is how our field translates good science into good therapy—therapy that improves client outcomes.
EBP OT practice integrates “critically appraised research results with the [therapist’s] clinical expertise and the client’s preferences, beliefs and values.” As Susan Lin and colleagues discussed in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (AJOT), the process of evidence-based OT includes six steps:
- Asking a Clinical Question
Early in your OT career, you’ll likely ask general, “background” questions. As you grow more experienced, you’ll ask focused, “foreground” questions. The more specific your question, the more useful its answer will be.
- Searching for the Best Available Research Evidence
Some questions may require original research, but, usually, you’ll find the evidence you need in reviews from reputable sources. Narrative reviews can help answer background questions. Foreground questions require digging into traditional systematic reviews.
- Evaluating the Evidence Critically
Ask questions of the research you review. Articles with high levels of internal validity and clinically-significant results matter most when you make treatment decisions. Finding such articles means asking questions about study design, sampling techniques, statistical approaches, and more.
- Combining Evidence with Your Expertise and Your Client’s Context
Trustworthy evidence is crucial, but you’re the expert on your skills and on your student’s situation, rights, and preferences. Always exercise your professional judgment when using research results to plan evidence-based OT interventions.
- Appraising Your Performance and Outcomes
Simply put, what happened? When you applied the evidence to the intervention, what results followed? Do your student’s functional outcomes warrant replacing the standard intervention? Reflection along these lines helps you give better care and grow as a therapist.
- Communicating Your Results
Did you perform your own systematic review or develop an EBP tool during the process? Now’s your chance to add to the evidence other OTs can benefit from.
Ways to Implement Evidence-Based OT Practice in Schools
How can OT practitioners like you promote EBP in schools? Here are some ideas:
- Take continuing education in accessing clinical literature, understanding research methodologies, and summary statistics, and evaluating evidence critically. The more you master these skills, the stronger an evidence-based practitioner you’ll become.
- Join or help start a journal club. In a journal club, you and other therapists agree to meet on a regular basis to read and reflect on clinically-relevant research. Journal clubs make the process of accessing and evaluating evidence easier and lot more efficient.
- Review the Choosing Wisely campaign, an American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation initiative designed to help people choose evidence-based care. AOTA’s participation in Choosing Wisely demonstrates how EBP benefits students’ health and well-being by steering them clear of unnecessary or even dangerous treatments.
Challenge yourself to do one or more of these things. Then post your experiences and results on social media with hashtags (like #occupationaltherapy and #EPB). This way all your friends, coworkers, and colleagues can see the amazing work you’re doing in schools!
Promote Occupational Therapy’s Distinct Value with PTS
We at PTS want to see your amazing work, too—and help you do even more of it.
That’s why we offer plenty of valuable resources for clinicians like you on our website. Are you looking for ways to map out and manage your schedule more effectively? Do you need tools to make data collection simpler and smoother? Regardless of your precise goals, PTS has in-depth information and practical solutions you can use.
We’re also looking for OTs who want to be not only outstanding therapeutic providers but also agents of change. Working with PTS as an independent contractor is a great way to gain experience and confidence as a therapist. It’s also your opportunity to bring EBP into more schools.
EBP promotes what AOTA Executive Director Sherry Keramidas calls “the holistic, client-centered approach to health care that makes occupational therapy distinct from other professions.”
Be an OT who uses evidence-based practice to demonstrate this distinct value in the schools. Know how to show that what you do is helping. Apply to join the PTS team today!