SIIReN - System Integration & Innovation Research Network

Primary Health Care System


The Emerging Role of Occupational Therapy W
ithin Family Health Teams
Principal Investigator: Catherine Donnelly; Co-Investigador: Lori Letts, Christie Brenchley, Candice Crawford


In March 2010 the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care approved funding for Occupational therapy (OT) as an interdisciplinary health provider (IHP) within Family Health Teams (FHT). While there is clear evidence to support the role of OT in primary health care, these studies have almost exclusively been conducted in broader community contexts such as seniors’ community centres. There are few studies examining OT working in traditional first point of contact settings such as FHTs. It is critical to understand the role of occupational therapy to ensure services are supported by best evidence and facilitate the collection of consistent and appropriate outcomes.

The objectives of the study were to describe the emerging role of occupational therapy in FHTs and examine how OT services are being integrated within the teams.

A multiple case study design was used to provide an in-­‐depth description of OT. Four FHTs with OT as part of the team were identified for their unique characteristics to answer the three research questions:

  • How and why is occupational therapy being delivered?
  • How is occupational therapy integrated into the FHT? and
  • How is OT being documented and evaluated. Data collection included in-­‐depth interviews, document analyses, OT and FHT profile questionnaires.

The role of OT is influenced by a number of factors including patient demographics, emerging needs of the FHTs and therapist experience. Integration into the FHTs is supported by electronic medical records, collaboration among IHPs, trust among team members and an understanding of the unique contribution OT can provide to patients and programs.

For further information, please contact:
Catherine Donnelly
Assistant Professor
Occupational Therapy Program
School of Rehabilitation
Queen's University
(613) 533 6385


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