Preparation, Roles, and Responsibilities of Filipino Occupational Therapists in Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

Disabil Rehabil. 2019 Sep 23;1-8. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2019.1663945. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: Despite the increasing number of literature that identifies the roles of various rehabilitation professionals in disaster-related work, there is still limited evidence that examines how these professionals prepare for and function in the various phases of disasters. This study describes the roles and responsibilities practiced by Filipino occupational therapists in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. The study also describes the preparations undertaken for the therapists to assume these roles. Materials and methods: A survey was conducted among licensed occupational therapists with prior experiences in disaster response. The survey consisted of 23 items - seven were related to preparedness, ten to disaster response, and six to the recovery phase. The participants were asked to indicate their degree of involvement in specific roles and responsibilities using a 5-point Likert scale. The questionnaire also explored their personal preparation for disaster-related work. Results: The participants were mostly engaged in roles related to the recovery phase, followed by the response phase, and were least engaged in the preparedness phase. The roles most frequently performed include: encourage connectedness and social interactions among survivors (recovery); provide supportive mental health services to survivors and their families (response); and attend trainings in disaster response to be part of a response team (preparedness). The majority of the participants received training in mental health responses and orientation prior to deployment. They identified the need to gain additional knowledge on emergency response and the effects of human displacement in disaster situations. Conclusions: Given additional training and orientation, occupational therapists are able to perform various roles and responsibilities in the different phases of disasters. They can serve as additional resources for government and non-government organizations to address the needs of vulnerable populations in disasters. The study results could inform professional organizations on how rehabilitation professionals could be further trained to address disaster-related concerns. IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATION With additional orientation and training, occupational therapists could serve as an important health human resource especially in providing mental health services to people with special needs in disasters. There is a need to intentionally integrate disaster preparedness in the scope of practice of rehabilitation professionals to prepare people with special needs for disasters. Additional knowledge and skills in humanitarian action need to be integrated with clinical expertise to benefit government and non-government disaster management activities.

Keywords: Disaster; disaster management; disaster preparedness; disaster response; emergency response; occupational therapy.