Occupational Therapy in Practice, OTalk

#OTalk – 9th June 2015 – ‘Assessment Tools: Help or Hindrance? Door-Opener or Straightjacket?’

‘Assessment Tools: Help or Hindrance? Door-Opener or Straightjacket?’

Date:   09/06/2015  Host: @nnikki_duffy

Blog Post –  Transcript

Thank you to Nichola (@Nnikki_Duffy) for offering to host this #OTalk – I’m sure it will be very interesting! Do join us at 8pm BST on Tuesday – all welcome!


My relationship with assessment tools has been a journey, as a newly qualified practitioner I found security, confidence and like a beacon on a light house they guided my assessment structure. They provided me with an outcome measure that could demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions and provided an effective audit that demonstrated the need for more OT’s.

Interestingly COT (2013) not only promotes the use of standardised outcome measures, but warns that without incurring such data through credible/reliable sources, the evidence base to support the value of OT will fail to grow, unable to meet the challenge of producing the robust information needed to support future commissioning.

However what if that guiding light fails to illuminate the person in their entirety and context? I remember having a discussion with a wonderful group of masters’ students who described the use of standardised assessments tools as trying to fit people into boxes. Lots of wonderful critical thinking going on, however on reflection I can distinctively remember in practice thinking I wish there was just another box!

However through the use of an assessment tool that was sensitive enough to illuminate a person’s capabilities at the exploratory level, family and care staff could see strength, not only loss, while providing a way of capturing the words ‘I feel like myself again’.

In context the strength of the assessment tool does not absolve the professional from there responsibility to recognise and respond to issues (Hocking, 2010), acknowledging that an assessment tool is a part of the assessment. Professionally Hocking (2010) identified that we have a profession responsibility to acknowledge our limitations, do we have the needed proficiency in administering certain assessment tools? Do we follow our assessment tool blindly, failing to review regularly against new evidence and theory?

Other questions to consider:


  • What assessment tools to you use in practice?


  • It what ways can assessment tools become opened doors?


  • It what ways can assessment tools become straightjackets?


  • What are our professional responsibilities when using assessment tools?


  • What are some of the challenges experienced when using assessment tools?


Useful Resources:


COT (2013) Position Statement: Occupational therapists’ use of standardized outcome measures. http://www.cot.co.uk/sites/default/files/position_statements/public/COT%20Position%20Statement%20-%20measuring%20outcomes.pdf#search=”use of outcome measures”

COT, Occupational Therapy Assessments for Older People with Dementia: http://www.cot.co.uk/sites/default/files/ss-older-people/public/OT-Assessments-for-Older-People-with-Dementia.pdf#search=”assessment tools”

Laver Fawcett, A,J. (2007) Principles of assessment and outcome measurement for occupational therapists and physiotherapists : theory, skills and application. Chichester : John Wiley.

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