Clinical Creativity: The Art of Occupational Therapy


Happy National Occupational Therapy Month!

On a daily basis, Occupational Therapists (OTs) at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC implement innovative strategies to make a difference in the lives of pediatric patients and their families!

To explore this fascinating health care field, we’re painting the specialty in a fun light – check it out!

A Creative Comparison:

Occupational Therapists, similar to artists, are passionate about their vocation, and driven by vision! Each therapy session is a new chance to bring about beautiful results in the lives of patients. Senior OT, Amy Loughner shares, “Every day is rewarding when you can help a child accomplish something that’s difficult – it’s all about fostering independence and confidence!” By nature, the field of OT requires team collaboration and interdisciplinary communication to achieve holistic health objectives. Accomplishing these goals, like creating an artistic masterpiece, requires patience, open-mindedness, flexibility, and problem-solving skills.

Putting Paintbrush to Canvas:

Like a blank canvas, every patient is bursting with exciting potential! With each “brush stroke” or therapeutic exercise, OTs and patients move one step closer toward achieving essential care goals, together. However, just as artists require varying kinds of brushes to transform canvas into painting, OTs require many creative techniques to help their patients master valuable life skills. The cutting-edge technology and educational opportunities available at Children’s Hospital serve as excellent resources in the OT department!

Senior OT, Lauren Spagna explains that all of her patients range in both age and diagnosis. Occupational Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, but entails highly-specialized care plans to meet the unique needs of individual patients. As artists look to fellow creatives for inspiration and muse, OTs seek out teammates’ knowledge and know-how in order to better implement effective forms of care. Spagna comments, “I’m lucky to have co-workers who work in different settings and have multiple areas of expertise,” as it helps her tackle challenges from fresh angles.

Seeing the Bigger Picture:

It’s important to keep in mind that progress always takes time. Artists may spend hours attempting to perfect one tiny detail of a painting, and OTs and patients may practice therapeutic exercises many times with little forward movement. This is where recognizing the bigger picture comes into play! In the grand scheme of things, perfecting a minute artistic detail can turn a painter’s vision into reality, and taking additional time to grasp foundational skills can make a world of difference in patients’ lives! Spagna shares, “Rewarding moments most often include seeing patients move on to their next stage, meeting a goal, returning to baseline, obtaining a new skill, and sometimes just going home. There is potential to see a lot of smiles, even though it may take hard work to get there.”

Particularly in pediatrics, including and educating family members during therapy sessions can work to reinforce children’s skill development! Loughner explains, “The nature of outpatient care is such that children may be seen for longer episodes of care – that’s when relationships with the families are developed.” In addition to maintaining personal motivation, OTs are responsible for ensuring that patients and their family members understand the purpose and bigger picture behind the hours of hard work. It’s much easier to accomplish goals when OTs, patients, and family members work together as a unified team!

To learn more about our current career opportunities in Occupational Therapy, please visit our careers site!