Antibiotic Stewardship for Occupational Therapists

Antibiotic Stewardship for Occupational Therapists

Antibiotic stewardship refers to coordinated efforts to optimize the benefits of antibiotic use.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), antimicrobial resistance is the leading threat to world health. As a result, antibiotic stewardship has emerged as an important initiative to combat this growing threat. Occupational therapy practitioners (OTPs) have a role in antibiotic stewardship.

Recommended course: Antibiotic Stewardship Program 

Antibiotic stewardship

Antibiotic stewardship refers to coordinated efforts to optimize the benefits of antibiotic use to improve patient outcomes while limiting antimicrobial resistance. Antibiotic stewardship has become an urgent global priority, with the rise of resistant infections posing a significant threat to public health. Healthcare providers across various disciplines are tasked with implementing strategies to ensure judicious antibiotic prescribing and mitigate the risks of antibiotic overuse and misuse.

The role of occupational therapy in antibiotic stewardship

Occupational therapy practitioners are not traditionally associated with antibiotic stewardship. However, the principles and practices of OT can complement and enhance stewardship efforts in several ways, including:

  • Patient education and medication management 
  • Functional assessments
  • Hygiene and safety precautions
  • Interprofessional collaboration

Patient education and medication management

Within the realm of antibiotic stewardship, OTPs have the power to educate patients about the appropriate use of antibiotics, the importance of adherence to prescribed regimens, and the potential consequences of antibiotic resistance. By empowering patients with knowledge and fostering their autonomy, occupational therapy practitioners can significantly reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions and promote responsible antibiotic use, instilling hope for a future with less antimicrobial resistance.

In 2021, an article about a peer educational tool was published. The tool was created to educate college students with little to no antimicrobial knowledge. The CDC’s five fundamental concepts of antimicrobial stewardship were identified as: 

  1. Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections
  2. Differentiation between viral vs. bacterial infection
  3. Proper use of antibiotics
  4. Non-pharmacologic measures to combat infection
  5. Antibiotic resistance is a consequence of inappropriate antibiotic use

Functional assessments 

Occupational therapists (OT) comprehensively assess patients’ functional abilities and limitations. In infectious diseases, such as urinary tract infections or respiratory infections, OTs can determine how these conditions impact patients’ ability to engage in daily activities and routines. By identifying specific functional goals for recovery and rehabilitation, OTs can collaborate with healthcare teams to tailor antibiotic treatment plans that align with patients’ overall rehabilitation goals. 

Occupational therapists are also able to assess a patient’s cognition. A patient’s cognition will determine their ability to comply with their antibiotic regimen. OTPs can make recommendations such as:

  • Use of a timer for remembering medication times
  • Use of a pill box to store the correct dosage of medicine
  • Use of a caregiver support as needed

Hygiene and safety precautions

By optimizing hygiene practices, facilitating handwashing, and reducing exposure to pathogens, OTPs can support antibiotic stewardship efforts by minimizing the transmission of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Interprofessional collaboration

Effective antibiotic stewardship requires collaboration and communication across healthcare disciplines. Occupational therapy offers tools that can complement and enhance the antibiotic stewardship efforts of other entities. By actively participating in interdisciplinary rounds, case conferences, and care planning meetings, OTs can contribute valuable insights regarding patients’ functional status, goals, and progress. This facilitates more informed antibiotic prescribing decisions. 

OTs can also work closely with other healthcare providers to develop and implement antibiotic stewardship protocols within healthcare facilities. Occupational therapists can play a vital role in promoting responsible antibiotic use and improving patient outcomes by focusing on patient education, functional assessment, environmental modifications, psychosocial support, and collaborative care. 

Continuing education 

OTPs must stay informed about current guidelines and best practices related to antibiotic use and resistance. Continuing education opportunities can help occupational therapists stay up-to-date on the latest evidence and strategies for promoting antibiotic stewardship.

Considering the pressing global threat posed by antimicrobial resistance, antibiotic stewardship has emerged as a critical initiative in safeguarding public health. This challenge necessitates coordinated efforts to optimize antibiotic use while curtailing the rise of resistant infections. 

Occupational therapy practitioners (OTPs) have a vital role to play in antibiotic stewardship through:

  • Patient education
  • Functional assessments
  • Hygiene promotion
  • Interprofessional collaboration

OTPs can contribute significantly to the judicious use of antibiotics and the mitigation of antimicrobial resistance. By integrating principles of antibiotic stewardship into their practice, OTPs can empower patients, enhance interdisciplinary care, and ultimately contribute to the preservation of effective antimicrobial treatments. 

Moreover, ongoing education and collaboration are paramount for OTPs to remain informed and effective stewards in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. With dedication and interdisciplinary cooperation, occupational therapists can continue to make meaningful contributions to antibiotic stewardship efforts, ensuring better outcomes for patients and global health security.

This article was written by Tasha Holmes, MOT, OTR/L, BCP

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