Date Presented 04/01/2022

This scoping review summarizes the current literature regarding novice OT practitioners’ use of occupation. Findings address how occupation is used and described by novice therapists. Occupation as a source of professional tension and the cognitive load of occupation-centered practice influenced novices’ experience using occupation. The results of this review will inform future efforts to support and strengthen novices’ occupation-centered perspective.

Primary Author and Speaker: Noralyn D. Pickens

Contributing Authors: Kristin Bray Jones, Marsha Neville, Barbara Schell

PURPOSE: An occupation-centred perspective is a foundational component defining occupational therapy practice. Evidence supports the effectiveness of occupation-based practice. Occupational therapy education is mandated to educate occupational therapy students on occupation-centred practice. Thus, novice occupational therapy practitioners should enter practice prepared to implement occupation-based practice. The aim of this study was to answer the question, ‘What is known about novice practitioners’ use of occupation in occupational therapy practice?’

DESIGN: Our scoping review followed the framework developed by Arksey and O’Malley, later enhanced by Levac and colleagues. We used the PRISMA-ScR extension checklist to guide our reporting.

METHOD: We used the following electronic databases for our data collection: CINAHL Complete (EBSCOhost), OT Search, APA PsycInfo (OVID), PubMed, Academic Search Complete (EBSCOhost), Scopus, Google, and Google Scholar. Peer-reviewed articles were included if published between 2002-2020, written in English, involved occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants during their first five years of practice, and included descriptions of occupation. We consulted with a professional health sciences research librarian for identifying databases and developing search terms. The data were charted, summarized, and key themes presented.

RESULTS: Ten articles met the inclusion criteria. Findings were separated into three categories that addressed how occupation was used and described by novice therapists. Two recurring themes were also revealed and influenced novices’ experience using occupation: occupation as a source of professional tension and the cognitive load of occupation-centered.

CONCLUSION: Despite occupation being a foundational component in occupational therapy practice and occupational therapy education, few articles addressed novices’ experiences using occupation in their practice. The limited research may point to how occupational therapy practitioners describe their interventions, shying away from using occupation in their descriptions of their practice. Within the existing research, more is known about the barriers limiting novices’ use of occupation. More research is needed to identify and develop structures to support novices’ use of occupation in practice.

IMPACT STATEMENT: We have limited research on how our newest occupational therapists are using occupation in their practice. This research is needed if we are to more fully support novices’ successful transition to practice. Thus, we need novices to explicitly talk and report about their use or non-use of occupation.


Arksey, H., & O’Malley, L. (2005). Scoping studies: Towards a methodological framework. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 8(1), 19–32.

Levac, D., Colquhoun, H., & O’Brien, K. K. (2010). Scoping studies: Advancing the methodology. Implementation Science, 2010(5), 1–9.

Tricco, A. C., Lillie, E., Zarin, W., O’Brien, K. K., Colquhoun, H., Levac, D., Moher, D., Peters, M. D., Horsley, T., Weeks, L., Hempel, S., Akl, E. A., Chang, C., McGowan, J., Stewart, L., Hartling, L., Aldcroft, A., Wilson, M. G., Garritty, C., ... Straus, S. E. (2018). Prisma extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR): Checklist and explanation. Annals of Internal Medicine, 169(7), 467.