In occupational therapy, evidence-based practice is the integration of various factors to inform clinical practice with clients, groups, and the population.
Factors that are considered include:
- Research and evidence in the literature
- Clinical expertise and opinion
- Client and caregiver perspectives
Clinicians consider these factors together to make their practice decisions and to provide high-quality services that reflect the values, interests, and needs of the those who receive occupational therapy services.
A great place to start for students learning occupational therapy and for occupational therapy practitioners in the United States is the latest edition of the AOTA’s Occupational Therapy Practice Framework (OTPF). This document outlines the process of the ‘how’ and the how ‘to do’ for people who are involved in the field of occupational therapy.
Students – Current students of occupational therapy likely have access to a library database of research in the form of journal articles. Your librarian will be able to teach you how to set-up and conduct research for occupational therapy journal articles through the school’s database system. This is my recommended place to start because of the large amount of databases that are available to you.
Practitioners – After students graduate, they likely will lose access to the library journal article databases. It is expensive to subscribe to these databases and it often does not make financial sense to subscribe to them for evidence-based practice. The #1 source I recommend OT practitioners to use is Google Scholar. It crawls the web’s journal databases for articles using Google’s powerful search algorithm. Although it returns search results for both free and paid journal articles, I find that the free journal articles can inform OTPs of evidence-based practice sufficiently without having to pay for individual journal articles.
Pro Tip: Sign up for Alerts on Google Scholar for search terms such as ‘occupational therapy’ to get updates of the latest OT EBP in your inbox. You can narrow down the search to be more specific for your practice setting or specialty, e.g., ‘occupational therapy stroke’ or ‘occupational therapy pediatrics’.
AJOT is the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. Members of the AOTA have online access to the entire journal library of AOTA’s AJOT. This another high quality EBP resource that I recommend practitioners in the United States use.
The AOTA also publishes Practice Guidelines on their AOTA online store in the form of books and/or PDF downloads. This is another great resource for specific practice areas but will cost money. The benefit to this resource is that it summarizes the most high-quality EBP for you so that you do not have to search through the literature (time vs. paid-cost).
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The OT Toolkit is one of my favorite resources to not only provide printouts for my clients in the form of general education, exercises, environmental modifications, and specific interventions – it provides general guidelines for practice and great ideas that you can expand on. It is a great place to start to springboard your ideas and to brainstorm during the OT planning process. The author of OT Toolkit also has a Blog with free resources as well. The OT Toolkit provides such a variety of information that you will likely find this resource useful in your daily practice no matter your setting.
Disclosure: I created this website.
EBOT is a free website that combines the best of all of the above. EBOT summarizes the latest data in various practice areas, populations, interventions, and groups in an easy-to-read and searchable table. It uses the red-yellow-green light system to inform OT practice of whether the evidence recommends that you proceed, proceed with caution, or avoid using specific interventions. EBOT is a community-based effort in which volunteers submit OT practice guidelines and then is peer-reviewed before being published on the website. EBOT is completely free and in its beginning stages as it was just launched in 2021.
Two third-party resources that come to mind are Sarah’s OT Potential Club and for OTs practicing with adults and geriatrics the Learning Lab from Senior’s Flourish.
These two occupational therapists take the sometimes boring EBP and turn it into richer learning experiences through podcasts, videos, and guides. Although they are paid, many practitioners find value in subscribing to resources like these because they save time, are engaging, and also provide a community that you have access to, especially if you are a new practitioner.
Many students and practitioners avoid finding and using evidence-based practice. But as you can see, there are many types of resources to help inform and guide your OT practice depending on your preferences. Using the latest EBP is important because as society changes, so should the interventions that occupational therapists use. An example of this is telehealth during the pandemic.
What resources do you like to use for research and to guide evidence-based practice? I would love to hear!