Free
Poster Session
Issue Date: July 2015
Published Online: July 01, 2015
Updated: April 30, 2020
The Incidence and Influence of Musculoskeletal and Nerve Injuries Among Occupational Therapists: An Exploratory Study
Author Affiliations
  • University of North Dakota
  • University of North Dakota
  • University of North Dakota
Article Information
Health and Wellness / Education of OTs and OTAs / Mental Health / Musculoskeletal Impairments / Pediatric Evaluation and Intervention / Professional Issues / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Health Services Research and Education
Poster Session   |   July 01, 2015
The Incidence and Influence of Musculoskeletal and Nerve Injuries Among Occupational Therapists: An Exploratory Study
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911510133. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-PO3104
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July 2015, Vol. 69, 6911510133. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.69S1-PO3104
Abstract

Date Presented 4/17/2015

This research study explored the incidence and influence of musculoskeletal and nerve injuries among occupational therapists as well as the influence that these injuries have on work satisfaction, work performance, and overall quality of life.

SIGNIFICANCE: Essential job functions required by occupational therapists (OTs) put the profession at an increased risk for musculoskeletal disorders and nerve injuries. The influence that these injuries have on work performance, satisfaction, and quality of life is not well identified. By increasing the awareness of this issue, the profession may increase measures taken to prevent these injuries and to better understand the impact that they have on therapists.
INNOVATION: This research study shifts the focus to the influence that treatment trends have on therapists’ work performance, satisfaction, and quality of life instead of patient outcomes. By identifying these issues, the hope is that these implications will lead to an increase in the quality of care provided by therapists.
APPROACH: Research questions for this study included the following: What is the incidence of musculoskeletal and/or nerve injuries in OTs practicing in the rehabilitation, disability, and participation practice area? Is quality of life influenced by the incidence of musculoskeletal or nerve injury in OTs practicing in the rehabilitation, disability, and participation practice area? Is work performance and/or work satisfaction influenced by the incidence of musculoskeletal or nerve injury in OTs practicing in the rehabilitation, disability, and participation practice area?
Limited research exists on this topic as applied to the profession of occupational therapy. Risk factors associated with the job functions of an OT are similar to those professions identified to be at higher risk for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) or nerve injuries. Workers affected by MSDs or nerve injuries may have increased rates of absenteeism and decreased productivity.
METHOD: Data were collected using a prospective, exploratory survey in an online format. Data collection was completed using Qualtrics from January 28, 2014, to March 1, 2014, following University of North Dakota (UND) institutional review board (IRB) approval. The sampling source consisted of UND occupational therapy fieldwork contacts and the American Occupational Therapy Association’s OT Connections.
SPSS Version 21 was used to perform descriptive Spearman’s rho, Cronbach’s alphas, one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs), and Mann–Whitney U tests (α level ≤ .05). The World Health Organization Quality of Life—BREF (WHOQOL–BREF) was used. It is a cross-cultural instrument utilizing 26 Likert scale items to identify quality of life among four domains: physical health, psychological health, social relationships, and environment.
RESULTS: A moderate positive correlation was found between perceived work satisfaction and quality of life (Spearman’s ρ = .558). A moderate positive correlation was found between expected productivity and quality of life (Spearman’s ρ = .331). A moderate negative correlation was found between job physicality and perceived work satisfaction (Spearman’s ρ = −.336). There was a greater incidence of musculoskeletal or nerve injuries among OTs (21.8%) when compared to the general working population (14%). Although the incidence was higher, the general influence of these injuries or illness in regard to perceived work satisfaction, work performance, and quality of life in OTs appears to be inconsequential.
CONCLUSION: Quality of life, work satisfaction, and work performance were not found to be substantially affected by musculoskeletal or nerve injuries. This may be due to the fact that a high percentage of those surveyed indicate modification of provision of services. When essential job functions are more physical in nature, work satisfaction is moderately decreased. This may be due to a number of factors, including amplified pain and discomfort from increased movement. Limitations of this study include the number of participants, no inclusion of the pediatric practice area, the low number of male respondents, the number of respondents allowed to complete the WHOQOL–BREF, no comparison group, the exploratory study design, and the online survey format.