Occupational therapy and emergency departments: a critical review of the literature

Kirstin James, Derek Jones, Larissa Kempenaar, Jenny Preston, Susan Kerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Occupational therapy is emerging as a profession within the context of emergency care, specifically within emergency departments. Emerging professional practice should be underpinned by an evidence base supported by research. As such, this critical review examines, analyses and summarises published and unpublished research concerning occupational therapy in Emergency Departments in order to support emerging practice.

Research evidence was sought from database platforms, the Internet and grey sources by searching using key words and search terms. Critical analysis of each piece of evidence was undertaken and the analyses were synthesised into a critical review of the literature.


Twenty-three potentially relevant papers were found, 16 met the criteria for further inclusion and seven were critically analysed. The quality of the papers varied and often lacked sufficient methodological detail for robust review. Although not all study sample sizes were small, variable methodological quality means findings can only be taken into professional practice with caution.

Based on current evidence, there can only be a limited understanding of occupational therapy, including practice models and efficacy, within emergency departments at this time. There is a need for large-scale, well-designed research studies of occupational therapy within emergency departments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-466
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number8
Early online date16 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • occupational therapy
  • hospital emergency service
  • accident and emergency department
  • A&E
  • emerging practice


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