Background and Purpose:
Acute care physical therapists (PTs) and occupational therapists (OTs) are frequently confronted with the question, “What is the difference between PT and OT?” The response, “PTs work with lower extremities and OTs work with upper extremities,” is common. Such an approach to this question is antiquated and misleading. It undervalues each respective discipline and de-emphasizes the goal of functional rehabilitation. The objective of this clinical perspective is to provide an alternative response for acute care therapists to offer patients, families, and other health care practitioners with a focus on activities and participation chapters of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF).
To achieve this objective, the article addresses the following topics: (1) historical roles of each discipline; (2) a proposed shift in which roles are described in terms of specific activities and participation chapters of the ICF; and (3) acknowledgment of the overlap between the 2 disciplines.
The distinction between PT and OT should be based on ICF chapters of activities and participation to convey the skill of each discipline. Overlap between the fields, particularly with the overall objective of therapy, optimization of functional movement, should be acknowledged.