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Occupational Therapy and World War I

Posted by Brian Spence on Aug 30, 2019 8:00:00 AM

WWI, Occupational TherapyOccupational Therapy has a history that dates back as far as 100 BCE. Asclepiades of Bithynia is the first recorded occupational therapist. He used hydrotherapy, music, exercise, sunlight therapy and wine on his patients. Science and medicine changed greatly for the next 2,000 years. It was a result of World War I, however, that modern occupational therapy was born in the United States.

20th Century OT

Obviously occupational therapy evolved over the centuries since Asclepiades. St. Catherine University offers a breakdown of most recent advances by century here.

OT Advancements During WWI

  • In 1904 Dr. Hubert coined the term "work cure". He began using handicrafts like pottery and weaving to treat psych patients.
  • In 1910 nurse Susan Tracy wrote the book Studies in Invalid Occupations
  • In 1917 The National Society for the Promotion of Occupational Therapy (NSPOT), now the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) was created in New York.

Occupational Therapy for WWI Veterans

Because of the nature of the war being fought and the weapons used, WWI vets came home with horrible injuries and illnesses. Trench foot, trench mouth, malaria, typhoid and influenza were common. Many soldiers came home as amputees.

The US government set up occupational therapy programs in hospitals. The handiwork included Dr. Hubert's work cures like pottery and basket weaving. The advent of OT is well documented in both records and entertainment media. Many films during this period documented the modern OT. These movies were stories about veterans trying to rehabilitate and get back to normal life.

Per National Public Radio (NPR) "After the war, rehabilitative medicine worked with disabled soldiers and veterans. The government's commitment to helping disabled WWI veterans is demonstrated by the many films about the rehabilitation process that were made which tell hopeful stories of successful adaptation." Then in the 1920s medical professionals began to apply these cures to injuries received in industrial accidents as well. Physical therapy made documented advancements too during these years.

At Staffing Plus we honor our veterans and the medical professionals, occupational therapists and physical therapists who treat them. Contact us if you'd like to discuss career opportunities in these fields.

And if interested in learning more about this and related topics, visit the Healthcare section of our blog.


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