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Guidance for Occupational Therapists
| Frequently Asked Questions for Occupational Therapists



As COVID-19 evolves, the provincial and federal government continue to update their resources.

We encourage you to regularly review the websites of the Ministry of Health and Public Health Ontario (PHO) for the most accurate, up-to-date information. Please see the links below.

For Health Care Professionals

  • Ministry of Health dedicated website for the health workers and health employers. The site provides sector-specific guidance for the health sectors and health professionals such as those listed below.  As these documents are regularly updated, please access through the Ministry website to make sure you are viewing the most current version.
    • Guidance for Primary Care Providers in a Community Setting
    • Guidance for Acute Care
    • Guidance for Home and Community Care Providers
    • Guidance for Long-Term Care Homes
    • Long-Term Care Homes COVID-19 Screening Checklist
    • Guidance for Paramedic Services
    • Guidance for Independent Health Facilities
    • Community Labs and Specimen Collection Centres
    • Guidance for Community Pharmacies
    • Guidance for Occupational Health and Safety
    • Guidance for Consumption and Treatment Services
    • Quick Reference Public Health Guidance on Testing and Clearance
    • Signage for health care settings (available in multiple languages)
    • Current case definition
Health sector organizations can call the Healthcare Provider Hotline for policy guidance related to COVID-19, urgent situations and information on Ministry programs: 1-866-212-2272 (toll free). Please be aware, the Hotline is unable to provide clinical advice regarding the management of cases.

Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health

COVID-19 Health Care Provider Recruitment

The Ministry of Health is looking for health care providers who may be working part-time and want to and are able to increase their work hours, former health care providers who are retired and are prepared to return to employment or anyone who is registered but not currently employed.

If you are interested, please complete the government's online COVID-19 Health Care Provider Recruitment form.

For the Public


Mental Health Resources


Guidance for Occupational Therapists

Updated March 20, 2020


Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has issued a directive to all regulated health professions, directing that all non-essential and elective services should be ceased or reduced to minimal levels, subject to allowable exceptions, until further notice.

At this time, we are recommending that occupational therapists review all the direct client services they currently provide to determine if or how they can be provided safely. Sector specific guidance has been developed by the Ministry of Health for health care professionals and this should be referenced for the most up-to-date information.

How do I know what services to continue and which to defer?

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Official guidance is evolving rapidly, and there is no one size fits all approach to this question. Listed below are some guiding questions to consider when making clinical judgments and ethical decisions about continuing care with clients.

Questions to Consider:

Have I prioritized clients according to their individual risk? What are the possible consequences to the client if I do not provide the service? If a client does not receive occupational therapy service at this time will they deteriorate and be at risk for hospitalization or further use of the health care system? Can I meet some of the clients needs using alternative means for occupational therapy service, for example, virtual or phone check-in, as a way of bridging service? Can I work with my other health system partners and referral sources to identify clients with urgent needs? Does my organization have pandemic tools and resources to help me make decisions about service priorities?

The College has been engaging in further discussions with the Ministry of Health. The direction that the College provided to occupational therapists concerning personal protective equipment (PPE) has been revised. Based on practice setting, the occupational therapist should refer to the sector-specific guidance documents from the Ministry of Health. This information may change frequently, please check their website regularly for updates.



For Occupational Therapists: Frequently Asked Questions

Updated March 25, 2020


[NEW] I don’t see occupational therapy services specifically listed on the essential workplaces list. What does this mean?

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario government has directed the closure of non-essential workplaces. Accompanying this announcement, the Office of the Premier issued a List of Essential Workplaces on March 24 2020.

The government has deemed that services within Health Care and Seniors Care and Social Services are essential. See #48-60 of the List of Essential Workplaces. Although not named by profession, many occupational therapists will find that their services fall under this umbrella, for example, home care, retirement home, long term care home, independent health facility, mental health and addictions, and counselling supports.

During this challenging time, occupational therapists are playing an increasingly important role as we work to build capacity in the health care system.


How do I know what services to continue and which to defer?

Read more... Read less...

Official guidance is evolving rapidly, and there is no one size fits all approach to this question. Listed below are some guiding questions to consider when making clinical judgments and ethical decisions about continuing care with clients.

Questions to Consider:

Have I prioritized clients according to their individual risk? What are the possible consequences to the client if I do not provide the service? If a client does not receive occupational therapy service at this time will they deteriorate and be at risk for hospitalization or further use of the health care system? Can I meet some of the clients needs using alternative means for occupational therapy service, for example, virtual or phone check-in, as a way of bridging service? Can I work with my other health system partners and referral sources to identify clients with urgent needs? Does my organization have pandemic tools and resources to help me make decisions about service priorities?


Can I refuse to work?

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This is a difficult situation and these are challenging decisions to make. You have an accountability to demonstrate professional behaviours and adhere to the Code of Ethics set out by the College.  Choosing to discontinue care is an ethical dilemma without one clear answer. The College's Guide to Discontinuation of Services offers guidance when discontinuing occupational therapy service.

Where possible, we encourage you to work with your employer to try to find solutions to minimize risk to you, your clients or patients, and your community.

We appreciate that health professionals across the province are asking these very important questions.  Questions pertaining to employment issues can be complex, ethical and sometimes legal and this is beyond the guidance the practice resource service can provide. Occupational therapists are encouraged to discuss employment options and obligations with their employers or seek legal advice. 

*Adapted from the College of Nurses of Ontario


If I work from home what are my obligations when handling patient information online?

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The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation that calls for adjustments to how occupational therapists communicate with their clients, the public and colleagues. Considering appropriate measures to keep client information confidential and secure is still important.  The College does not recommend or endorse specific online platforms for virtual care. It is expected that occupational therapists investigate the security and privacy features that these platforms offer.

The Information and Privacy Commission of Ontario has some tips when working from home specific to the COVID-19 situation.


What does the College consider to be essential vs. non-essential service?

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What is essential vs. non-essential depends on the circumstances and risks associated with each patient and client population. Each client presents with their own unique circumstances. The College relies on the occupational therapist’s professional judgement to determine if it is necessary and safe to continue providing service during a period where there is guidance from government to practise social distancing.

The Ministry of Health has provided health clinicians with guidance documents and other resources to help determine risk. OTs can conduct a risk assessment with each patient or client to determine if providing service at this time is appropriate. We have sought additional guidance on this issue and will continue to update registrants as we receive information. Please continue to visit the dedicated Ministry website for the most up-to-date information and check the College COVID-19 page for updates.

We appreciate that these decisions are complex and ethical in nature and know that in this challenging time, we are all working to ensure the best care possible.


Can I be asked to do activities that are not typically in the scope of occupational therapy practice?

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In a health emergency such as the current pandemic, occupational therapists are valuable members of the health care team who may be asked to participate in activities that are outside their normal duties. Occupational therapists may be asked to assist with mask fit testing or screening procedures. Some of the activities that occupational therapists may be asked to perform are considered controlled acts and require delegation by a practitioner who is authorized to perform them. Recognizing these activities may not be common practice for occupational therapists, they could only be done with adequate training on the procedures and if given the required personal protective equipment.

With appropriate safeguards in place we would expect occupational therapists to be flexible during situations of health emergencies to assist the health care system manage increased demands.  We do acknowledge that there may be individual exceptions to this and we encourage those occupational therapists to have discussions with their organizations to address these concerns.


Can I offer clinical care using alternative methods like virtual and/or phone sessions?

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As the situation regarding COVID-19 evolves so must our response. We understand organizations and occupational therapists are taking steps to prioritize essential and critical clinical care and consider other mechanisms to manage non-essential, in-person client care.

We encourage registrants to refer to the College Guidelines for Telepractice in Occupational Therapy.

With new technologies emerging, the College does not recommend or endorse specific online platforms for virtual care. It is expected that occupational therapists investigate the security and privacy features that these platforms offer.

Documentation requirements are still the same with online sessions, however, the occupational therapist would indicate in the clinical record that the session was performed virtually or by phone and if others participated in the session, for example, family members. Length of session may be useful to record as well as any online resources that are used during the session.

When considering the option for alternative formats for sessions, occupational therapists should use their professional judgment to decide on the utility and appropriateness of these alternatives in their practice. If an occupational therapist does choose to proceed with the virtual care, we urge them to consider the potential risks associated and how they can be mitigated in advance, for example, unavailable or disrupted technology, unforeseen clinical issues that emerge during virtual session.

Client consent discussions can be adjusted to include some additional risks/benefits specific to how the services are being delivered. See Standards for Consent for your reference.

As we adjust and alter the way to do things, the College remains committed to the safety of occupational therapists and the public. We expect occupational therapists are adequately trained and have access to proper protective equipment.


What are the College’s expectations for occupational therapists to provide service to clients when personal protective equipment (PPE) may be difficult to obtain?

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The College’s Standards for Infection Prevention and Control requires occupational therapists to use their knowledge, skill and judgment when taking steps to protect themselves and others from infection. Occupational therapists must follow the guidelines outlined by the Ministry of Health and the public health experts that specifically address the use of PPE and the use under specific circumstances.

All occupational therapists should review Public Health Ontario's Updated IPAC Recommendations for Use of Personal Protective Equipment for Care of Individuals with Suspect or Confirmed COVID-19. Occupational therapists are asked to review and consider options if required to provide care if the pandemic precautions remain in place for an extended period: virtual sessions (see the Guidelines for Telepractice in Occupational Therapy); activities that are appropriate to conduct by phone; or consider rescheduling the session.


What documentation is required during this pandemic?

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The Standards for Practice outline the expectations for occupational therapists to practice safely, ethically, and competently.  Even during a pandemic occupational therapists are expected to comply with the Standards for Practice including Standards for Record Keeping. Occupational therapists must use their clinical judgement to determine what information or factors need to be included in the clinical record that informed their decision making.



Occupational therapists are reminded to follow infection prevention best practices (see the College Standards for Infection Prevention and Control). Please contact our Practice Resource Service for any questions by phone at 1.800.890.6570 ext 240, or by email to practice@coto.org.

The College will continue to update this web page. Please be sure to check the Ministry’s COVID-19 website, the Ministry website for healthcare providers, and Public Health Ontario.