OT Safety in Acute Care

This blog talks about general safety and precautions for OTs working in hospitals.

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Safety and precautions for occupational therapists working in acute care

Those of us working in hospitals learn the basics of safety through hospital orientation and quality improvement initiatives. However, it is clear that health care providers can do a better job1,2.  A recent survey at one hospital discovered that up to 30% of the medical staff did not wash hands between patients2 and according to another report, hospitals with high rates of hospital-acquired infections have not made significant changes to their infection-control policies after this information became publicly available1.  In order to protect yourself and your patients, remember the following:

General OT safety3

  • Be sure that you are working with the correct patient (mistakes can happen – check that wrist band and/or ask the patient for their birthday)
  • Leave patient in the lowest position as possible (sitting) or bed rails up (in bed); wheels locked
  • Always communicate with nursing staff about functional abilities of each patient
  • Adjust bed position when working with a client in bed (make it a position of comfort for you!)
  • Understand use of call buttons and code call buttons
  • Know policies for chemical, waste, or sharps exposure
  • Know how to exit in the case of emergency


Overview of precautions  – what OTs need to know3

  • Remember that you always have the potential to infect
  • Wash hands before and after each patient
  • Use new gloves for each new patient
  • Use a mask or face shield with any splashing body fluids
  • Know and follow facility-specific procedures
  • Specific precautions
    • Airborne precautions Universal precautions, gloves
      • Examples – Measles, varicella, tuberculosis
    • Droplet precautions: Universal, gloves, mask
      • Examples – Influenza, pneumonia, mumps, rubella, meningitis
    • Contact precautions: Universal, gloves, mask, gown
      • C-diff, E-coli, herpes simplex virus, herpes zoster, MRSA


  1. Squeri, R., Genovese, C., Palamera, M.A. Trimarchi, G., & LaFauci, V. (2016). “Clean care is safer care”:  Correct handwashing in the prevention of healthcare associated infections. Societa Editril Universo, 28(6), 409-415.
  2. Linkin, D.R., Fishman, N.O., Shea, J.A., Yang, W., Cary, W.S., & Lautenback, E. (2013). Public reporting of hospital-aquired infections not associated with improved processes. Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, 34(8), 844-846.
  3. Paz, J.C. & West, M.P. (2013). Acute Care Handbook for Physical Therapists – E-Book (Kindle Locations 13265-13266). Elsevier Health Sciences. Kindle Edition.

Check out other blog posts about acute care here:

Assessing cognition

Delirium management

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