Understanding Hand Therapy

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What is Hand Therapy:

Hand therapy is a specialty practice area for Occupational therapists and Physiotherapists.

“Hand therapy is the art and science of rehabilitation of the upper limb, which includes the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder girdle. It is a merging of occupational and physical therapy theory and practice that combines comprehensive knowledge of the structure of the upper limb with function and activity. Using specialized skills in assessment, planning and treatment, hand therapists provide therapeutic interventions to prevent dysfunction, restore function and/or reverse the progression of pathology of the upper limb in order to enhance an individual’s ability to execute tasks and to participate fully in life situations”

Definition and Scope of Practice of Hand Therapy, The HTCC Board of Directors, March 2009.

What is a practitioner of Hand Therapy?

An Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist who, through further education , clinical experience and independent study have extensive knowledge and have become proficient in the treatment of hand and upper extremity conditions resulting from injury, disease or deformity

In 2010, the education committee of IFSHT developed an International Hand Therapy Clinical Practice profile.

This document is intended to be a reference document that provides an overview of the 'Practice of Hand Therapy' from an international perspective outlining:

  • The advanced knowledge
  • Clinical practice skills
  • Core competencies
  • Types of upper extremity problems / dysfunction

that relate to specialised hand therapy clinical practice.

The document is attached below ?? (PDF HAND THERAPY PROFILE)

Hand Therapy Credentials:

Therapists working in the area of hand therapy can choose to pursue specialty certification. Certification is voluntary and difficult to attain. It involves meeting rigorous standards, developing a long-range career path, and acquiring the advanced study and training required.

To date, in Ireland we do not have our own credentialing process but are very fortunate to have access to two well established processes.

  1. CHT Credentials (Certified Hand Therapist - established by the American Society of Hand Therapists, first exam 1991)

A Certified Hand Therapist (CHT) is an occupational therapist or physical therapist who has a minimum of three years of clinical experience, including 4,000 hours or more in direct practice in hand therapy. In addition, the Certified Hand Therapist has successfully passed a comprehensive test of advanced clinical skills and theory in upper quarter rehabilitation. Because of changes in the profession, every CHT is required to demonstrate continued professional development and competency by recertifying every five years.

For more details check the HTCC website: www.htcc.org

List of Certified Hand therapist practicing in Ireland:

  1. Emma Carr, Senior Physiotherapist St Vincent’s hospital (2010, 2015)
  2. Olga Hill Senior Occupational Therapist AMNCH (2012, 2017)
  3. Carole Murphy Senior Occupational Therapist Beaumont Hospital (2013)
  4. Mary Naughton, Clinical Specialist Occupational therapist Beaumont Hospital (2000, renewed 2005, 2010, 2015)
  5. Michelle O’Donnell, Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist, St James Hospital (2012, 2017)
  6. Annette O’Driscoll, Senior Occupational Therapist Cork University Hospital (2008, 2013)

2. Accredited Hand Therapist

The British Association of Hand Therapists has developed a system of accreditation of hand therapists’ learning and experience, leading to the award of ‘Accredited Hand Therapist’.

Hand Therapists may develop their knowledge and skills via BAHT validated courses at different levels. BAHT validated courses qualify for points towards becoming an accredited hand therapist.

More experienced therapists may choose to submit evidence of prior learning (APL) to gain BAHT points, or gain educator points through lecturing on validated courses.

For more details check their website: http://www.hand-therapy.co.uk

Accredited Hand Therapist’ practicing in Ireland

  1. Paula Minchin, Senior OT, AMNCH, 2013

European Certified Hand Therapist (ECHT)

European Federation Society of Hand Therapy

In 2005 the European Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy recognised the need for a European certification system and the education committee was tasked with developing the process leading to the title of European Certified Hand Therapist - ECHT.

Currently the ECHT process is open to therapists that have obtained certification at national level. In Ireland you are eligible to apply if you hold either the CHT or the AHT credentials.

More information is available about the ECHT on the EFSHT website – www.eurohandtherapy.org