occupational therapy productivity

Practical Advice for Achieving Productivity

If you’re looking for advice for achieving occupational therapy productivity targets, you’re in the right place.

Having worked as an OT in geriatrics, inpatient rehab, and SNF’s, I wanted to give this topic the attention it deserves. I feel it is SUCH a hard aspect of being an OT (maybe the hardest aspect!) and really seems to burn therapists out.

If you have not had the experience of working in SNFs/ALFs, targets for measuring a therapists’s productivity ranges from 80 to even 90% (gasp!). Get ready for an intense ride.

Occupational therapy productivity targets.

It is common to feel a lot of pressure from high productivity targets. You want to be sure you are as efficient as possible while on the clock so you don’t have to spend extra unpaid hours doing nothing but documenting (been there!).

While my experiences come from working in settings with productivity targets between 80% to 90%, I’ve been hearing stories of some companies going up to 90-95%, which in my opinion is unfair, unsafe, and basically impossible to achieve ethically.

Here are some quick tips that I’ve learned thus far to help me remain confident in my performance without the worry of getting in trouble in the form of write-ups or “talking-to’s”  (yikes!).

1. Hustle.

And I literally mean, hustle. It’s so easy to get caught up in conversation with a coworker, supervisor, family member, etc. Whenever I become engaged in conversation, I try to reel it in after a minute or two and get moving because, literally, each minute of non-patient time is counting against you.

You may feel like you’re being unfriendly for appearing to be in a rush, but you are in a rush and you can always save chats for after work without the stress or pressure. 

Of course, it’s OK to have a quick chat. But it needs to be just that – quick.  Try not to get too involved in long conversations if you can help it (trust me, I’ve done this too many times!).

We’ve all been there when someone is talking your ear off about nothing particularly relevant or interesting, but it’s still somehow difficult to find the right time to cut them off and end the encounter.

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Here are some simple phrases to use in the moment, while turning away from the person:

  • “Well I gotta run, it’s been great to see you.”
  • “Yeah, totally. I’ll let you get back to your day. See you later.”
  • “I’m on my way right now to see a patient, but let’s chat later.”

I also make it a point to “hustle” to get my paperwork done since that is my biggest barrier for taking up time.

I find that copying and pasting my patient’s notes from a previous session and adding/removing what needs to be fixed really helps cut down documenting time.

I would only do this on a patient you know well and on a note on that patient that you have personally written.

An example may be copying exercises you’ve done with them as well as your assessment and plan and of course modifying as needed.

I try to spend no more than 10 minutes on each note if I can help it. Evals, discharges, and weekly notes are an exception. 

2. Point of Service Documentation

This one is hard, I know.

If you’re working in skilled nursing or any Medicare-paying facility, you might already be aware that Medicare does not cover non face to face time, so once you get done with your patient to document, your productivity is already counting against you.

When you’re performing an intervention, it’s so hard to document and provide your patient with the best care. A good tip, though, is to save yourself five minutes at the end (with the patient) for them to rest and for you to document.

If the patient needs to work on activity tolerance, you might save the UBE (arm bike) for the end and write their entire note while they’re cycling, of course remaining attentive to them as well.

Toileting is another good opportunity if they’re taking a little “extra” time with the BM’s and don’t need close supervision. 

In a nutshell, try to keep at least some documentation as a part of the session, but also balance keeping the treatment client-centered and functional (don’t ever ignore them!)

3. Don’t Get Distracted

This ties into the first point of hustling and avoiding long conversations, but many therapists can also get caught up when other therapists ask them for help with transfers, documenting questions, non-related patient questions, etc.

This will really eat into your productivity.

Other distractions include checking your phone/e-mail/voicemails too much during the day. Each distraction really adds up.telephone-586266_640

One good habit to get into is to either put your phone on silent or just turn it off all together.

Even if you’re not getting sucked into Facebook or Googling things like you might do at home, just the simple act of checking your phone can be a constant distraction that eats up a lot of productivity time.

4. Stay Organized

This is of course easier said than done. As an OT working PRN at three ALFs, I have to work around the patient’s and physical therapist’s schedules. This makes keeping my numbers up challenging to say the least.

It helps tremendously to carry a day planner with you to write the patients’ day schedules so you know exactly when to attempt to treat them. The alternative is running all over guessing who may or not be available.

A great clipboard I’ve purchased myself opens up so you can store more documents for later use. The link takes you to Amazon, and if you purchase the clipboard you’ll also be supporting My OT Spot.

Lastly…

Remember that starting a job with high productivity targets for the first time is going to stressful. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to challenge you to remain ethical, but…

You can do it!

Having a high productivity job may feel overwhelming, but it is unfortunately the nature of the beast these days.

It really can be a day to day struggle sometimes, but these tricks have helped me immensely.

I would love to learn from you what has helped.

Hang in there, friends!

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2 comments

  • erica March 11, 2017   Reply →

    Hi, I would LOVE to carry my day planner with me but i feel like having something extra to keep up with while treating is more stressful than it is worth. How do you handle that? My current system is to write my schedule on a folded up piece of paper each day and put it in my pocket so my hands are free.

    Thanks for the tips!!

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L March 11, 2017   Reply →

      Hi Erica, I say do whatever works for you! I currently carry around a clipboard with my schedule just because I have so many random papers with lab values, my billing log, etc. but if I could help it I would probably just do the folded piece of paper to make life even easier!

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