#Occhat – 1st November 2011: What do we understand by occupational science? What does it mean for OT? Does it mean anything to others?

What do we understand by occupational science? What does it mean for OT? Does it mean anything to others?

Date: 01/11/2011  Host:  @claireOT

Blog Post  –  Transcript 

What do we understand by occupational science? What does it mean for OT? Does it mean anything to others?

Occhat Summary 1st November 2011



#Occhat is a forum for discussing issues related to occupational science, complimenting #OTalk which started the previous week. The main focus of the discussion in this session was:

An introduction to occupational science, in particular what is its contribution to occupational therapy?
To inform the discussion reference was made to an article by Mary Morley, Anita Awal, and Georgia Spiliotopoulou in the most recent issue of the British Journal of Occupational Therapy . The main theme of this article was that occupational science research does not address the needs of occupational therapy, which increasingly is under political pressure to provide effective clinical interventions based on sound research evidence. Morley et al (2011) suggest that there needs to be a refocusing on research priorities to address these needs.

An enthusiastic discussion ensued, during which several questions were addressed. Comments from participants documented here are not in the order that they occurred during #occhat, but rather are collated under specific titles. This has required a certain amount of interpretation. It is hoped this has not caused any participants contribution to be misrepresented, but if it has then apologies are offered. Also rather than acknowledge each participant individually, all participants are thanked equally for their contribution to a lively and interesting discussion.

The following themes to the discussion emerged:

What is occupational science?
Occupational science is about advancing our understanding of occupations and how they link to health and well-being. Occupational science is about studying occupation, which all OTs do as part of their everyday practice. Occupational science intends to be multidisciplinary; its knowledge is not specific to occupational therapy.

What is the relationship between occupational science and occupational therapy?
Occupational science is the study of humans as occupational beings; occupational therapy is application of this knowledge. Occupational science provides a foundation for the profession, which has helped it refocus on occupation. For some this has reinvigorated their enthusiasm for being an occupational therapist. As one commented “I didn’t become an OT to do OT, I became an OT to do occupation”. Occupational science invites us to realise and utilise the power of occupation beyond the therapy setting – broadening the contribution of occupational therapy. Occupational science can open up new opportunities for occupational therapy. An interesting question was posed about the ownership of occupational science, specifically the intention that it should exist beyond the boundaries of occupational therapy, as it was stated “Is advantage, risk and opportunity of occupational science that OTs don’t necessarily own it?”
Amongst the discussion there was some concern about how exactly occupational science relates to practice, although individuals had encountered OTs who had been able to demonstrate this. Some examples can be found amongst the presentations from #OSPlym11 .

Points of concern with occupational science
During the discussion two specific points were raised about occupational science, these were:
1. Whether from a philosophy of science perspective occupational science is credible? It was suggested there was limited credibility for occupational science without occupational therapy
2. Whether in current climate OTs can afford to study it when most of it contributes very little to recognised evidence base? This was suggested to be the most important issue.
In critiquing occupational science it was suggested that consideration had to be given to the context it was developed in, specifically that occupational therapy was trying to identify itself as a legitimate profession.
Some of the concerns about the relationship between occupational science and occupational therapy can be found in the work of Anne Cronin Mosey .

In response to these points several comments were made:
• That evidence for the effectiveness of occupational therapy is different from research into the nature of occupation. That they intentionally have different purposes, therefore should we expect occupational science research to be directly applicable to occupational therapy?
• That occupational science fulfils an important role in understanding what ‘normal’ occupation is before we can really understand how to address dysfunction. By examining occupation through research we better understand our underpinning philosophy.
• That many other professions do basic research to investigate and support their foundations, so should occupational therapy be any different?
• Occupational therapy research doesn’t necessarily focus on our unique skills, but rather what occupational therapists do in practice. These may not necessarily be occupation focused interventions.
• Occupational science is not constrained by occupational therapy, but can inform it.

Comments related to the Morley et al (2011) article
• Morley et al (2011) has an emphasis on the expectation of the occupational therapy profession serving the needs of the NHS, whether these are occupation focused or not. This reflects the political climate, but is it a position that the profession should adopt without question?
• Whilst it could be suggested that occupational therapy research and occupational science research complement one another, the article suggests that with limited resources we cannot afford to pursue both.
• In general there is still an issue about how different types of research evidence are perceived. In particular quantitative research continues to be viewed as the superior form of evidence, which presents a challenge to occupational therapy.

Practice implications
• Think about how an occupational science perspective can/does add to how other sciences explore occupation. In particular we should collaborate with other professions, such as psychologists, sociologists etc, on occupational science research.
• Some discussion about how occupational science relates to evidence based practice. There was a suggestion of a link between the two, although this was not fully explored, and maybe a subject for future discussion.
• Occupational scientists need to make links to occupational therapy practice explicit. Also individual OTs need to take some responsibility for relating it to their own clinical areas, for example, making use of NHS librarians for literature searching and critical appraisal skills. It was suggested that #occhat could contribute to this, by taking theoretical articles and discussing how they could be applied in range of situations.
• College educators ensure graduating students are able to access and apply it, explicit links between OS and practice.

The tweets from this session of #occhat can be viewed at:

[EDIT please also see here for the full transcript of the chat- CJ]


posted on behalf of Chris Genter

Blog Post  –  Transcript 

The next discussion will be #OTalk on social media and CPD and will take place on Tuesday 8th November 8-9pm GMT. Please also check the Facebook group for details http://www.facebook.com/OTalk.Occhat

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