Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Occupational Therapy (M.S.)

Degree Program

Occupational Science and Therapy

First Advisor

Ashley McKnight DrOT, OTR/L, ATC

Academic Year



Background: Paraplegia and Tetraplegia resulting from a spinal cord injury can directly impact a patient's quality of life. Occupational therapists typically do not have the ability to follow a patient post discharge and therefore do not know the impact of their treatment and interventions on a patient’s life. This is why understanding the patient’s perspective of treatment is extremely important to understand where gaps arise in all areas of their lives under the OT scope of practice. This study aims to answer the following questions: 1) What are the gaps in spinal cord injury treatment in inpatient rehabilitation? (2) What do individuals with a spinal cord injury wish was different during inpatient rehabilitation? (3) What are the topics individuals with spinal cord injury want additional education and training on post discharge?

Methods: A 26 question survey was designed by researchers. The survey themes included training in sexuality, training in cooking, and training in self-care. The respondents were located via a facebook group for people with spinal cord injuries and a physiatrist office. Inclusion criteria included those who were 18+ years of age who have had a traumatic SCI injury resulting in tetraplegia or paraplegia and were discharged from occupational therapy services. Participants were excluded from the study if they did not meet these demographics, have a history of multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, guillain barre, transverse myelitis, or moderate and severe traumatic brain injury. Data was analyzed using Qualtrics.

Results: The survey was initiated by 36 participants who indicated they had either paraplegia (N=19) or tetraplegia (n=17). Based on analysis of the Qualtrics data, potential gaps in occupational therapy services were indicated for individuals who receive spinal cord injury rehabilitation. Results of the survey indicated that more than half of participants wish they had more training in sexuality, cooking, and self-care (dressing, bathing, toileting, and grooming).

Conclusion: The results of this study indicate there are gaps in occupational therapy rehabilitation services for persons with a spinal cord injury. Further research is needed to examine the high incidence rate of bladder infections despite survey responses indicating adequate ADL training. Potential exists for improvement in this service area with the collection of further data.

Available for download on Tuesday, June 10, 2025