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The joy of running flat out along the beach - is there anything more freeing?!

Teams, roles, and contributions


ResearchBlogging.org
I’m quite keen to generate some more discussion about how individual professions can contribute within Interdisciplinary/Interprofessional Team without being defensive of their contribution, nor allowing other disciplines to encroach on their specialist skills.
I really struggle with the whole concept of “role definition” because so often I see “the OT role is…” without considering that there are a number of core areas many health professionals in pain management use such as goal setting, relaxation, pain “education”, activity pacing/management, relaxation, biofeedback, cognitive behavioural therapy.

Some examples: Once I heard an occupational therapist say that only occupational therapists should “set functional goals”. Yet if goal-setting is client-centred, I can see how physiotherapists, nurses, social workers, psychologists and doctors can ALL work with a person to “set functional goals”.

I also heard an occupational therapist suggest that “only” occupational therapists should go into the home, or workplace. Yet I’ve had some fabulous physiotherapists and psychologists go into both these places and do fantastic work.

The current debate is whether occupational therapists or physiotherapists should do mirror therapy or laterality training.

Sadly I also heard of a doctor who told the interdisciplinary team that he thought it was fine to advise a person to begin a walking programme – without consulting a physiotherapist! Oh no! How dare he! Actually, isn’t this what many nonmedical clinicians have been wanting our doctors to do? And if a physiotherapist begins talking about function in the real world, isn’t this what occupational therapists have been saying physiotherapy doesn’t do but should? Seems to me we don’t recognise our own cognitive dissonance even when it’s sitting right in front of us.

To be quite honest – I don’t care WHO does what! As long as a clinician is competent, the client has had a hand in establishing priorities, and there aren’t two clinicians doing exactly the same work, to me it does not matter.
BUT I’d love to find out some other points of view, and poke holes in my assumptions – so, go to it ladies and gentlemen!

Someone asked me “so what are the skills people should have to work in chronic pain management?”

  1. I’m thinking about this right now – firstly, people who “get” pain. So well-educated, knowledgeable people who have a really good grasp on neurobiology and psychology of pain. I don’t really care about the professional background, but I’d like someone who can reassure patients/clients that their pain (a) has a name (b) doesn’t mean its harmful (c) can be managed. I would help if one person in the team can prescribe rationally.
  2. Someone should address movement and pain - don’t care if it’s an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, exercise physiologist or whatever. Best if this person can grade movement from simple/low intensity to higher and definitely functional intensity. And critically, that person needs to know the relevance of any exercise on what the client/patient does in daily life.
  3. Someone else needs to talk about the meaning of pain on the sense of self, and help the person understand that doing things differently doesn’t mean losing your self concept.
  4. It would be good to have someone who understands behaviour, and interactions between behaviour, emotions and cognitions.
  5. Absolutely, someone in the team needs to help the person identify what they WANT to, or NEED to do to feel complete, then help the person work out ways to do that.
  6. And I think it’s vital someone can interpret psychometrics, and knows enough about outcome measurement to produce regular reports on how participants in pain management are doing once they leave the service.

And all the other things like using biofeedback, diet, relaxation, communication, health literacy, would need to be incorporated by those will skills in these areas.

I think teams need someone who will bat for them in management, someone who really cares about the team and how it functions, and will wave the flag in terms of retaining an interdisciplinary self management focus, ensuring the team remains client-focused and team-focused, rather than discipline-focused.

Teams need to negotiate their contributions (note I say contributions not “roles” – contributions are offered, roles are defined and possessive). Team members need to renegotiate what they can offer when new team members join the team, or when a team member develops a new skill. Defining one “role” means, implicitly, that other roles are also “defined”. Sometimes this happens without negotiation. And if role definitions are not regularly reviewed, innovation and responsiveness drops, positions get reified – and we end up with a cookbook approach to pain management that means the personal relationship between the person who has pain and his or her clinicians is valued less highly than the professional title of the clinician. I don’t see this as client-centredness.

One argument for defining roles is to avoid duplicating skills. It’s intended to ensure “the right clinician with the right skills sees the right patient at the right time”. I think this ignores the common skills all clinicians working in chronic pain management need. It ignores individual team member development. It means clinicians who are not “meant” to do the tasks nominated within another role’s definition can’t develop their skills to support one another within the team. It creates barriers and obstacles to developing a common language, using a common model (cognitive behavioural approach, in the case of chronic pain management), developing common goals. It can lead to multidisciplinary practice instead of interdisciplinary/interprofessional teamwork.

It can, unintentionally, create over-servicing because instead of selecting clinicians to work together on the basis of what the client/patient needs, professional demarcation lines are drawn and THREE clinicians need to work with the client/patient instead of two. Maybe even more because if the person needs to develop communication skills at work – maybe the occupational therapist “should” work on this; if the person needs to develop effective communication at home – maybe the social worker “should” be involved; maybe it “should” be the psychologist because it’s about the person’s core schema. See how complex this can become? It’s even more difficult if we look at activity management. Should the occupational therapist be involved because it’s about occupation? Or the psychologist because it’s about contingencies and core schema? Or the physiotherapist because it’s about building exercise tolerance? Or the social worker because it’s about negotiating boundaries with other people?

Teamwork – more than a group of clinicians who happen to work with the same patient.

 
Sandra G Leggat (2007). Effective healthcare teams require effective team members:
defining teamwork competencies BMC Health Services Research, 7 (17), 1-10 : 10.1186/1472-6963-7-17

More discussion on Functional Capacity Evaluations


Some years ago I wrote about Functional Capacity Evaluations and the lack of evidence supporting their use, particularly their use as predictive tools for establishing work “fitness”. 

I’ve received some sharp criticism in the past for my stance on FCE, and I continue to look for evidence that FCE are valid and reliable.  I haven’t found anything recently, and I’m still concerned that FCE are used inappropriately for people with chronic pain.  There is nothing like the demand characteristics of a testing situation for a person with chronic pain to either push themselves – and have a flare-up for some days afterwards but get a “good” report suggesting they have put in “full effort” and that they can manage a full time job of a certain MET demand; or to pace themselves, using pain management strategies – and avoid a flare-up but receive a “bad” report, suggesting they haven’t put in “full effort” and despite this, they can manage a full time job of a certain MET demand.

I can’t understand why FCE providers don’t work alongside people with chronic pain and their vocational counsellors, to help them define their sustainable level of physical demand, and systematically help them to gain confidence that they can find suitable work without exacerbating their pain. 

For the record, I’m not against establishing functional abilities.  And I think having a systematic approach to doing this.  I am against FCE’s being touted as a way to reliably determine work capacity, or to being able to determine “effort” through “consistency”. There simply isn’t published evidence to support these claims.  If someone can provide me with evidence, I’ll gladly change my mind because if there is one thing scientific training teaches, it’s that it’s OK to change your mind – if there’s evidence to do so.

This doesn’t mean that FCE’s would then be fine and dandy – because, as I’ve seen far too many times – HOW they’re used goes often well beyond what any FCE can possibly do, and very often is used as a blunt instrument when some good motivational interviewing and careful vocational counselling would achieve the same.

Here’s my original post, and some very good references are at the end of it.

Journal impact factors


If you’ve ever wondered about how well-connected and respected a journal is, journal impact factors claim to give you the answer. Theoretically, a “good” journal will be cited widely by others, and have authors clamouring to contribute to it. Of course, unpopular topics like chronic pain are trounced by their flashier cousins exploring things like global warming and new theories of evolution, and there is the effect of advertising and prominent endorsements on circulation numbers, but there you have it.

This is from a respected university, so read and enjoy.citation_analysis

Patients Are Often More Engaged In Their Health Than Providers Think


adiemusfree:

This post rang particularly true for me – both as a patient myself (who isn’t from time to time?!) as a clinician involved in helping people develop self management (which includes health literacy), and finally, as a researcher looking at the ways people who are resilient despite their chronic pain cope with their health condition. Whew! Sorry for the long sentence!
I don’t know that I completely agree that patient engagement isn’t for health care providers, because plenty of people are ambivalent about enacting their good intentions. This is where what we do counts most. Listening, helping establish what is important to the person, then supporting them to “take the next best step” for their health. This might mean giving them a call a couple of days later to see how they’re getting on, helping them set specific actions to take (time, date, what, when, where), and then reviewing how this is working some time in the future. Being proactive.
Thoughts?

Originally posted on Mind The Gap:

Patients often don’t get the respect they deserve. Take the subject of patient engagement.  Just about everywhere you turn in the health care literature these days we are told how physicians and other providers need to do a better job getting patients involved in their own health.

But is that really their role?

Patient Engagement Is Not The Job Of Health Care Providers

Why?  Because by the time a person (aka patient) presents for care in the primary care physician’s office…they are already engaged in their own care to some degree…albeit now necessarily in the way providers expect.   Here’s what I mean.

People consult with their doctor when they have a need or concern which they believe needs to be addressed.  Often times before they make an appointment to see the doctor, people will do their own home work to see if a doctor’s appoint is really necessary.   Many of us…

View original 395 more words

Online Technology and Occupational Therapy Survey


If you’re an occupational therapy practitioner and haven’t heard of Anita Hamilton’s survey on the use of online technology – here’s the link – what do you mean, what’s it about?  Online technology and occupational therapist’s use of it.  Oh, Anita’s use? She, like me, is doing her PhD.  Please help her – PhD’s are just as much about tenacity as they are about academics!

Quick update from earthquake city


The aftershocks seem to have slowed a little, and they are not as powerful so hopefully things will settle down a bit. We still don’t have water, so we’re having to use our emergency stash (60 litres!) and boil it to wash, do dishes etc. Even when the water comes back on, we’ve been advised to boil the water again because there’s damage to the sewers.
I feel OK in myself, in that I’m not fearful of the quakes (a bit fatalistic really, but there is so little time to react when a quake hits, there seems little point in being afraid – you can’t do anything!), but I am very tired and not sleeping all that well.
I think the difference for people in Christchurch now, compared with the previous two big earthquakes is that the adrenaline rush that was there last time hasn’t been available this time. There’s less energy reserve to draw upon and the daily hassles of dodging potholes and cleaning up liquefaction and working out which shops are still open and where they’ve relocated to – all of that practical ‘stuff’ that is usually there in the background – these things take cognitive effort. Routines and habits make life easier, mean the brain can be freed for more important things. For me anyway, the routines and habits are disrupted and require thinking and planning and time.
I ask myself how are these changes I’m working through any different from the sort of changes in “how to do” that a person with disability needs to make? How often do clinicians forget that doing things “differently” takes mental effort – and in pain management, we’re often asking people to do almost everything in life “differently”. No wonder there are times when people who have limited resource to draw on (maybe fewer social supports, fewer original habits and routines, mental health problems, less flexibility in the ways they are able to view their world) struggle to cope with the demands of both a pain problem (which already makes demands on them) AND our suggestions for change!

I’m off to work shortly, to work with a group of people who have chronic pain and who have been incredibly courageous in wanting to keep going with the last week of their programme despite the earthquake. They were given the choice to stop, to defer the programme and return again, but they chose to stay. That is strength and resilience folks. I am so lucky to work in this field, with the team and patients I work with.

Wobbles in the Quakey Isles


By now, if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m from Christchurch, NZ, and yes, we’ve had a few earthquakes recently! I’m happy to report that while we’ve had some more damage to the surrounds of our house, and there are a few more cracks in the ceiling and bricks, we’re pretty well off. No serious damage done except a rather disrupted night!
My nerves are a bit frayed and I keep monitoring any deep rumbling sound or rattle of the windows just in case it’s the beginning of another one – and yes, it’s a bit wearing. I’ll keep blogging but will keep the number of posts down, as I have been, just to reduce some of the (internal) pressure I put on myself to post often!
It’s tempting to say something a bit trite like “we’re all tough here” or something but really, it seems to me there is little I can do to change our situation, much to be grateful for, and more reasons to be positive than not. So if being tough is equal to being occasionally grumpy, tearful for a moment or two, laughing often, taking time out, and finding good things to appreciate, then I suppose I’m being tough! This is life, and life can randomly throw challenges as well as delights. That sounds awfully philosophical, but seriously folks – that’s my way of getting through and being OK.

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Occupational Therapy & the Cognitive Behavioural Approach For Pain Management – ii


ResearchBlogging.orgIn the first post on my commentary of Robinson, Kennedy and Harmon’s review of occupational therapy for chronic pain, I argued that they have misinterpreted the cognitive behavioural approach to pain management, and in particular, that they appear to hold an outmoded view of pain as either biological/organic or psychological, and refute the place of psychosocial models in occupational therapy practice.

Yesterday I distinguished between cognitive behavioural therapy and a cognitive behavioural approach - while the therapy is often primarily concerned with ‘talk’ therapy followed by behavioural changes to improve mood for example, a cognitive behavioural approach is a broader concept that is based upon the assumption that people are able to make changes in the way they understand their pain, given sufficient information and strategies to do so, and that by doing so, they’re able to re-engage in important activities.

In other words, even if chronic pain itself doesn’t change, people can think of themselves as primarily ‘well’ people who simply have pain.

Today I want to move into two points: how an interdisciplinary team works (with a specific focus on role blurring and duplication of input), and more on the way in which occupational therapists can use so-called ‘psychological’ approaches to help people engage more fully in their lives.  BTW I think maybe other disciplines can use some of this too.

Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary are two words bandied about a lot when it comes to pain management.  Sometimes they’re used almost interchangeably – but when it comes down to it, there are important differences between the two.

In a multidisciplinary team, each team member retains an independent, usually discipline-specific, approach or model for working with the patient.  Although the team works concurrently with the person, and there may be common goals, multidisciplinary teams do not necessarily need to integrate their treatment, nor have a common over-arching treatment model or approach.  Some poorly coordinated multidisciplinary teams can actually provide serial ‘mono-therapy’ – just the same as seeing several separate clinicians one after the other.

Interdisciplinary teams work differently.  Firstly they hold a common model or understanding of the problem.  In pain management, this means the team accepts the tenets of a cognitive behavioural approach as I outlined in yesterday’s post.  Then the team works with the person/client/participant to develop a combined understanding of the person’s problems or situation, and collaborate to generate shared goals.  While a newly formed team may function somewhat like a multidisciplinary team in some respects, over time each clinician develops a shared understanding of each other’s contributions - and very often can function at a basic level within some of the domains of concern of each other’s discipline.  They continue to provide discipline-specific input, but always with a view to the overall model and the client’s goals.

For example, after 18 years, I have some knowledge of medications and their side effects, so it’s not surprising that I can talk with someone about when to take medications and what the side effects might be.  I might do this because I’m working with the person to help them get up and schedule their day, and help with a better sleep pattern.  It’s also no surprise that the physiotherapist and the clinical psychologist, nurse and social worker can be heard discussing activity management – even asking how the person is going to apply skills in daily activities!

This can at times be somewhat disturbing, especially to new clinicians.  They might ask “How can I be sure these other team members know what to do? What if they do it wrong? Why are they doing what I should be doing? What if things get left out?”

As I’ve learned, two things help to make interdisciplinary teams work well – really good induction and mentoring as the new clinician settles in, and time.  It’s during the latter that communication needs to be open and robust discussion about why various approaches are used, and who might be the best person to have the main focus on a goal.  Role contributions change over time too, as team membership changes.

Does working this way lead to duplication? Yes, to a certain degree.  Provided that team members are consistent in what they say, ensure no goals are omitted, and focus on the case formulation, I’m not so sure that duplication is always a bad thing.  Maybe it’s better described as being consistent, providing back-up to each other, and more importantly, allowing the patient/client choice about who to approach to talk about topics. Most times, in an individualised programme, teams seem to work best with a combination of clinicians who can address psychosocial aspects, functional/physical aspects, and help the person integrate what is learned into his or her life.

A proviso – team members need to be competent in the techniques they use, and they must ensure the goals they can contribute most effectively to are being addressed. As someone pointed out, an occupational therapist or physiotherapist who dabbles in ‘a bit of CBT’ on the side is not likely to be helpful if they then omit something like how to schedule or plan a day, or progress activity levels over time. At the same time, I keep on saying, when is there a better time to elicit automatic thoughts and beliefs than when engaging someone in activity? When better to discuss whether the thoughts are helpful, accurate or helping the person achieve what is important and valued in life? And carried out with competence, working with thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviours in this way is both effective and efficient.

Mainly for occupational therapists, I want to turn to how it’s possible to integrate so-called ‘psychological’ approaches into occupation.  Be warned now – this may be continued!

If occupational therapy is about helping people engage more fully in valued occupations, I’d argue that we need to use the most effective tools to do so.  In pain management, a cognitive behavioural approach has consistently been demonstrated as effective – and occupational therapists, while somewhat silent on the publishing front, have been involved in most of the major pain management programmes.

Occupational therapy is not a ‘talk’ therapy – it’s all about doing.  It involves identifying what is important or valued in a person’s life, and helping them engage in those occupations.  While part of this involves talking and planning and ‘educating’, the purpose and outcome is for the person to then be equipped to engage in those activities or occupations themselves.

During planning and ‘educating’, it’s common for the person to raise objections to doing things differently.  These objections are – yes really – automatic thoughts!  In other words, they’re cognitions or beliefs, or maybe even attitudes or rules about how the person thinks things ‘should’ be done.  Robinson, Kennedy and Harmon seem to construe this situation as one in which what the client believes should be accepted without question.  I argue that unless the belief supports the person engaging in occupation, it is a valid target for an occupational therapist to address. While the belief may be part of the person’s ‘lived experience’ to date, it’s amenable to revision and change so he or she can see themselves and their opportunities differently, and re-engage in what is important.

When using a problem-solving process to review how a person has managed a new set of occupations, or way of approaching an occupation, feedback and evaluation is a vital component. It’s at this point too that an occupational therapist can review how helpful thoughts and beliefs are – and help the person look at the situation (and beliefs) in the light of new evidence.  They can then be helped to generate new beliefs and change their behaviour (or engagement in occupation).

I’ve gone over the word limit again today, so yes, there will be more tomorrow on this important topic.  I hope it’s generating food for thought and that what I’m writing serves as encouragement for ‘non-psychologists’ to learn more about how to work with thoughts and beliefs as they work with people.

Robinson, K., Kennedy, N., & Harmon, D. (2011). Is Occupational Therapy Adequately Meeting the Needs of People With Chronic Pain? American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 65 (1), 106-113 DOI: 10.5014/ajot.2011.09160

“Pain Management. A Handbook of Psychological Treatment Approaches” (1986) edited by A. D. Holzman and D. C. Turk.Pergamon Press