Nancy J. Kelly, MS, OTR/L, clinical supervisor, Inpatient Occupational Therapy


BWH Occupational Therapists, from left: Laura Engelman, OT; Nancy Kelly, MS, OT; Sarah Whyte, OT; Kathleen Ausmann, OT; Lisa Cohen, OT; Gayle Lang, OT; Jessie Franco, OT; Monique Turenne, OT; and Noreen Dillon, OT

The profession of occupational therapy turns 100 years old in 2017, and occupational therapists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital are celebrating this important milestone. The first hospital-based Occupational Therapy department in Boston was established at the Robert Breck Brigham Hospital, a predecessor hospital of BWH.

The profession’s roots can be traced back to the early 1900s when soldiers from World War I were in need of care and treatment. It was noted at the time that people who were injured recovered both physically and emotionally at a faster rate when they were given tasks or activities that had meaning for them. This concept of “occupation,” or purposeful activity, has been at the heart of the occupational therapy profession since its inception. Research now shows that involvement with meaningful leisure activities – such as knitting, crocheting or coloring, for example – brings physiological and psychological health benefits and can help prevent dementia and social isolation. Occupational therapists assess patients’ motor, cognitive and visual-perception skills and help patients practice daily living activities safely and effectively, such as bathing, dressing and cooking.

Today, occupational therapists at BWH are part of the Department of Rehabilitation Services. They work with patients who have sustained a stroke, brain injury, burn or multi-trauma, as well as those who have undergone procedures including face transplants, double arm transplants or ventricular assistive device placement. BWH outpatient clinics have occupational therapists who are certified hand therapists, and one therapist specializes in treating professional musicians who have sustained musculoskeletal injuries. Whatever situation the patient is facing, the goal of occupational therapists is always to help their patients begin the journey of regaining function in the daily activities they want and need to perform.

Occupational therapy is a dynamic profession that enables people of all ages and functional abilities to maximize their independence and participation in meaningful activities. Please join us in celebrating Occupational Therapy Month in April and the 100th anniversary of the profession and the difference it has made in the lives of our patients and their families.