How to Use Evidence Based Practice in Occupational Therapy

Evidence-based practice (EBP) has become the gold standard for healthcare professionals, including occupational therapists (OTs). It’s a phrase we hear constantly – at school, at work, at conferences – and we all know the importance of testing and examining the efficacy of what we are doing. 

But with so many other demands on us, how do we make sure that we are constantly integrating EBP into clinical practice?

What is Evidence Based Practice?

EBP is the process of using the best available evidence combined with clinical expertise to make decisions about patient care. It helps Occupational Therapists to provide the highest quality of care to their clients, both by informing clinical practice and by providing evidence to back up therapeutic interventions. As OTs, using evidence-based practice will also ensure we are following the latest standards of care, while also considering the individual needs and preferences of their clients.

Why is EBP central to good OT practice?

Evidence-based practice has become a cornerstone of occupational therapy. As OT as a profession moved toward a higher level of academia and science, testing and proving interventions became key to establishing OT as a vital health profession. 

As with many professions, clinicians can become comfortable and settled in a certain way of practicing – and this can take the edge out of our treatments. It is important that practitioners understand not only the importance of evidence-based practice, but also how to realistically integrate it into the therapeutic process. 

How do I include evidence based practice in daily occupational therapy?

First – get clear on your goals. Understand the importance of staying current with new research and continually updating your knowledge and skills. When you are creating your care plans, it is essential to ensure you are basing your decisions on the best available evidence. This means looking at research studies that have been conducted on the topic and considering their results. It also means staying up-to-date on the latest evidence; for example, reading journal articles or listening to webinars.

However, OTs should consider their own clinical expertise and patient preferences when making decisions – your experience and clinical expertise are also a form of evidence based practice!

Research Articles

It is clearly important to be up-to-date on the latest research. This includes the latest clinical practice guidelines, current research, and the best available evidence.

To ensure that you are using the best evidence-based practice, you should have a working understanding of the research process and its components. This includes being able to find, appraise and interpret evidence while also applying it to clinical practice. 

When evaluating a source of evidence for use in occupational therapy practice, there are a few key criteria to consider. Is the article peer-reviewed? Are the authors reputable? Was the sample size appropriate?

Look for high-quality research studies. Look for research studies that are randomized, controlled trials with a large sample size and minimal bias

Consider the author’s qualifications, the study design, and the results of the study. Furthermore, it is important to look for evidence of peer-review and to be aware of any potential conflicts of interest. 

Finally- it is important to consider the generalizability of the results and to make sure that the study results adhere to current ethical guidelines. 

Scholarly articles are a great source for evidence-based practice that have been reviewed and evaluated by peers. Additionally, articles from reputable journals and organizations are also a good source of evidence. 

Peer and Team Collaboration

Additionally, it is beneficial for OTs to consult with other professionals, such as physicians and nurses, to get their perspectives on evidence-based practice. By utilizing a team approach and keeping up-to-date with the latest research, OTs can be sure that they are providing the highest quality of care to their clients.

Clinical Expertise

Additionally, it’s important to consider the individual needs of your clients and critically evaluate the evidence for interventions. 

Three ways to include EBP in your daily practice

1. Subscribe to a journal – that is relevant to your practice!

Knowing that remaining current on literature is the most reliable way to stay on top of what is being examined in your field. Although not every assessment and intervention that you complete in a day is likely to be included in the journal – it will examine issues and treatments that are current in your field and may give you food for thought for future, contemporaneous treatments. 

Reading a journal will also expose you to treatments that are outside of your ‘typical’ practice and encourage more expansive thinking when it comes to approaching your client base and their needs.

Ensure the journal you subscribe to is one that you are interested in and that is accessible to you! Some articles can be overwhelming – and that’s where our next steps come in.

2. Critically reflect and analyze your own practice

Make sure that you are regularly stepping back, asking yourself what your plan of care is going to include, and why. Even for discrete therapy sessions – take a critical reflection on why you chose the intervention, and whether the person is receiving the intensity/repetitions/and so on to ensure the treatment is at an effective level.

Joining or starting a journal club can assist with self reflection, and encourage some inter-disciplinary feedback and learning too. Disease specific journal clubs are a great way to niche down into an area of interest but also appreciate the approach of other clinicians in that space; whereas discipline specific journal clubs can help explore many different conditions and OT interventions that are relevant to your practice!

Join our club here

3. Take a course!

Wading your way through understanding Evidence based practice is not easy. Thankfully, we have a course for that! Learn more about how to critically understand and appraise evidence, how to set up your own research, and much more, with our course “Evidence Based Practice for the Everyday Clinician

Check out Evidence Based Practice for the Everyday Clinician here!

Here, you will:

– Learn to find the most relevant evidence

– Be able to appraise and critically consume evidence

– Know how to formulate your own questions and find evidence to support or refute practice

– Understand variables, data, and analyses

– Have a blueprint as to how to start and manage your own research

Appreciate the true ‘power’ of EBP!

Including Evidence based practice as a daily part of your clinical life can make a huge difference to you, your patients, and your team. Try these techniques to make it an intuitive part of your life!

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