Stroke Specialty Conference Helps OT Answer Call
By Andrew Waite
Carolyn Baum, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, a two-time AOTA president and a leading occupational therapy researcher once felt lost in the world of stroke care.
“For years I felt like I was seeing foreign language and other terms driving the conversation,” Baum said during her keynote address at AOTA’s Specialty Conference—Adults with Stroke, held in Baltimore, Maryland, November 30 to December 1. “I don’t feel like that now. In fact, occupational therapists are being called on now for their unique contributions to the care of persons with stroke, especially in the area of participation and occupational performance.”
AOTA specialty conferences, such as the stroke event, are meant to provide occupational therapy practitioners with the right practice tools and evidence so that they will be ready to answer the call.
More than 330 attendees from 39 states and three countries attended AOTA’s 5th specialty conference. Past specialty conference topics include autism, adult cognition, and treatment for wounded warriors.
“AOTA specialty conferences are focused on a particular issue, so you can be in the room with other clinicians who have the same kinds of clinical curiosities that you have, the same kind of client base, and the need for same kind of knowledge,” said Maureen Peterson, MS, OT/L, FAOTA, AOTA’s chief Professional Affairs officer.
Peterson noted that stroke is a leading condition treated by occupational therapy practitioners, and the high turnout in Baltimore reflected their desire to be as up to date on best practice as possible. Those who attended were treated to a distinguished slate of presenters, Peterson added.
“These speakers are the experts, so it’s a great place to get all the most recent, relevant research and evidence all in one place.”
In addition to Baum, conference speakers were: Joyce Sabari, PhD, OTR, FAOTA; Sue Doyle, MS, OTR/L, CFE; Jan Davis, MS, OTR/L; Mary Hildebrand, OTD, OTR/L; Timothy Wolf, OTD, MSCI, OTR/L; Robert Ferguson, OTR/L; Douglas Rakoski, OTR/L, ATP; Kathryn Levit, PhD, OTR/L; and Glen Gillen, EdD, OTR, FAOTA, the 2013 Eleanor Clark Slagle Lecturer.
For more details about the conference’s sessions, including handouts and archived recordings, click here.
Michele Robinson, OTR, who works at Hartford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace, Maryland, was most interested in Doyle’s talk on upper limb post-stroke sensory impairments. The session delved into sensory function in stroke survivors and included strategies for detecting impairments as well as approaches to remediation.
“A lot of my patients don’t understand why their arm isn’t working or why they can’t feel their left hand,” Robinson says. “I’m in acute care, so I’m looking for little things that might be able to help.”
As a new practitioner, N’Erin Brown, OTR, who works at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland, said she attended the conference to enhance her current skills.
“A lot of the time clients have cognitive and physical deficits, so I want to have the highest level of knowledge so I can give them the best treatment and care possible,” she said. “As a new grad it’s easy to feel unsure of yourself, but education opportunities like this can help me feel better prepared.”
Brown said she was impressed with the conference’s evidence-based sessions, like Sabari’s discussion applying AOTA’s OT Practice Guidelines to stroke treatment.
The conference had as much to offer newer practitioners as it did advanced practitioners.
Salvador Bondoc, OTD, OTR/L, FAOTA, who has been immersed in stroke rehabilitation for much of his career, said he appreciated the conference’s holistic approach. From global evidence-based practice, to cognition, to sensory function, Bondoc thought the broad perspective matched the holistic approach that it takes to properly care for persons with stroke.
“But the best thing about the conference is that it is really directed at occupational therapists,” Bondoc said. “Other continuing education activities are really created for a generic audience. But having these specialty conferences put on by AOTA provides multiple perspectives that are very specific to occupational therapy.”
Baum’s keynote emphasized the opportunities in stroke that are arising for occupational therapy practitioners.
“OT is becoming a leader in dealing with stroke,” Baum said. “Stroke is not just a single event in someone’s life. It’s something that needs to be managed over a long period of time. Occupational performance enables participation in everyday life and contributes to well being.”
With those opportunities come “the responsibility to go to doctors and co-workers and the community to share our discoveries and knowledge,” Robinson, the third-year practitioner, said of Baum’s challenge to occupational therapists to answer the call.
“I think we can have more of a voice.”
Andrew Waite is the associate editor of OT Practice. He can be reached at email@example.com.