Hand Therapy Awareness Week
Renee Lim, AHTA Accredited Hand Therapist
Hand Therapy practices may look a little bit different in recent times and the delivery methods of hand therapy have changed but the same smiling faces and professionalism remain and the goal of treatment has not changed; to improve hand and upper limb function for our patients. Hand Therapy Awareness Week is upon us again and is a chance for Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists that deliver treatment of hand and upper limb injuries to promote our practice.
Hand Therapy is the art and science of rehabilitation of the upper limb - shoulder to hand. Treatment of hand and wrist fractures, rehabilitation of traumatic hand injuries post surgery and management of chronic and arthritic conditions continue to be accessible in safe effective formats. Traditionally hand therapy treatment has been delivered in a face to face clinical setting. It has always been delivered using a variety of methods; hands on techniques, education, orthotic fabrication and exercises have always been part of our tool kit, but at this time, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic we have needed to expand on our well established practices.
Hand injuries still happen. Staying at home has led to DIY home renovations, unorthodox home office and schooling set ups, and for some a new found love of exercise. From what I have seen over the past month or so in an acute trauma hospital, the outcome of these endeavours has meant that practitioners of hand therapy have a lot to offer. Advice on setting up a workstation correctly, positioning, posture and equipment may prevent a painful injury. A hand therapist is the perfect health professional to seek advice to ensure you can maintain work and education in a safe way. As we well know arthritis and long standing hand and arm pain does not spontaneously resolve when a pandemic arrives and planned surgery may have been delayed, due to the stoppage of elective surgery. Hand therapy is playing a vital role in assisting with pain reduction and maintenance of function.
Practitioners of hand therapy continue to offer front line health care, and ensuring patient safety is paramount. This has driven innovation and creativity. The introduction and ability to offer remote hand therapy services through telehealth video consultations and telephone consultations has resulted in being able to assist the patient in navigating through their rehabilitation program after injury or surgery.
Remote education and support of patients living with chronic hand conditions has continued with the goal of maintaining function and independence. The Australian Government has recognised hand therapy as an essential service and as a result we are able to continue with face to face treatments throughout the pandemic.
Of course this has not been without its challenges. We are a profession that is literally hands on and we have been on a steep learning curve to provide the same levels of care remotely, but I have seen first hand that my colleagues are up to the challenge.
This hand therapy awareness week we celebrate hand therapy in its traditional sense, but also use it as an opportunity to reflect on the innovation arising from the pandemic. We look at how alternative models of healthcare delivery can be incorporated in our practice and how we can flexibly respond to the needs of our community.
Practitioners of hand therapy will continue to be available to support the community through this pandemic and beyond, ensuring safety and quality care is at the heart of everything we do.
Happy Hand Therapy Awareness Week 2020.