EP or OT

Q&A: OT or EP?

Exercise Physiology is still somewhat new to the rehabilitation space, and people don’t always know when, or who, to refer to in various scenarios.

As with many health professions, there can be overlap in the services offered. The lines may be blurred between one professional scope of practise and another! A common grey area that we experience questions around is the difference between the services of an Occupational Therapist and us as Exercise Physiologists, especially when operating within the return-to-work space.

So we have collated this mini Q&A session in a bid to clear the confusion!


When To Engage An Occupational Therapist?

Occupational therapists are specialists at assessing workplace duties, coordinating return to work plans, and ensuring that the environment is adequately set up for the individual’s needs. Your claimant may benefit from the support of an Occupational Therapist if…

  • The client’s return to work process has become more complex than expected and a significant element of direction, coordination and monitoring is required,

  • The client has a prospective job offer or is ready to return to the workplace, and a return to work plan needs to be formulated,

  • A workplace assessment or workspace set-up is needed to ensure their comfort within the workplace, or assistive equipment needs to be ordered,

  • A functional job description is needed to assess the requirements within the claimant’s role,

  • Liaison with a potential or existing employer is necessary in order to execute the return to work plan.

** See below for a further quick note


When To Engage An Exercise Physiologist?

Exercise Physiologists are specialists when it comes to assessing capacity for physical tasks and building physical capacity via exercise prescription, as well as implementing positive lifestyle changes. You may wish to consider exercise physiology for your claimant, if…

  • They’ve been on claim for a while and there are no improvements being made, especially in the last 3 months. Ask yourself – has my claimant reached a plateau?

  • There are specific milestones still to be reached before a return to work plan can be commenced. Ask yourself – Is there a gap between their current function and the function required to complete tasks within their work role?

  • There are no suitable duties available in their workplace and therefore “real world” conditioning is not able to be performed. In these cases, an EP program can include exercises that closely mimic the required tasks, in order to still achieve task-specific conditioning!

  • There is a lack of clear, functional information regarding capacity – creating ambiguity and uncertainty when trying to plan for the client’s return to work.

    • Note: For Psychological cases, this functional information may relate to their adherence to a structured program, rather than to any specific physical tasks. In these cases, motivation and willingness to engage with the program provide valuable insights. See our article, Part Time EP… Part Time Detective? Working With Psych Claims

You may also wish to consider Exercise Physiology if your claimant would benefit from support in improving their general lifestyle and self-care practices, such as sleep, diet, stress management, and of course, exercise!

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What Is The Difference In Services Offered?

  • Occupational Therapists are experts regarding all things to do with the workplace, including the physical nature of the duties required, communication with the employer and creating a return to work plan that involves graduating hours. In other words, what is required of the client at each stage of the return to work plan?

  • Exercise Physiologists provide exercise-based programs to upgrade the clients functional capacity, as well as communicating relevant functional information back to the Rehab Provider and Occupational Therapist, i.e. Client XX can complete XX physical task, which will enable them to achieve XYZ in the workplace.


Can EPs And OTs Work On A File Simultaneously?

Absolutely – and we love taking this collaborative approach on a case!

Working on a file simultaneously with an OT makes our job easier, by defining the requirements of the role that the claimant will be returning to, and setting appropriate parameters in their return to work plan.

We aim to make the OT’s job easier also, by supporting the client to return to their required duties through a structured exercise (and lifestyle modification) program. We also feed back relevant functional information to help to guide the return to work plan and ensure that the client is on track to return to their required duties.

Of course, it’s important to prioritise communication between the EP, OT and Case Manager. This ensures that things continue as smoothly as possible for the client in their return to work journey.


Has This Helped To Clear Some Of The Confusion? Do You Have Further Questions? 

Don’t Hesitate To Reach Out And Let Us Know!

** The professional scope of an OT is significant! From working clinically in high-needs environments to splinting limbs, creating adaptive devices, performing highly specialised pediatric work, extensive home-based assessments, home modifications, care planning, daily task mapping, and on and on. We take our hats off to you guys. But for this scenario, we’re focusing purely on the workplace and the typical duties that would likely be performed within an Occupational Rehab scenario.


Author: Carmyn Barnes
Editor: Yolanda van Vugt

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Have you got a claimant that would benefit from E.P. support? Refer to the team!