Fieldwork is viewed as an integral part of the MSOT educational experience. Fieldwork provides opportunities for students to integrate and apply academic learning. It is during the fieldwork experience that the student can learn, practice and refine skills of observation, evaluation, treatment planning, implementation and communication. In the fieldwork setting the student begins to define his or her future roles as a practicing occupational therapist and can develop the necessary self-confidence and affective characteristics essential to meeting the demands for this challenging field. Fieldwork provides many opportunities for feedback which promotes professional behaviors and attitudes and clinical expertise.
Fieldwork is an integral part of the education of an occupational therapist and must occur in an environment that provides those experiences which reinforce previous learning and which challenge and motivate the student to develop professionally and adapt to clinic situations.
The curriculum design is based on an adult learning model. Thus, each student must be able to determine what constitutes "current” and “emerging” practice in his/her geographic region. While the MSOT program support the definition and examples of emerging practice provide by AOTA, the geographic diversity of MSOT students requires that the program's definition of emerging practice is flexible based on a student's geographic location. Thus, community-based practice, rural practice, and school-based practice are “emerging” practice in some geographic areas and a student must be able to provide support for what he/she identifies as “emerging” in his/her geographic region.
The academic fieldwork coordinators are responsible for the planning and implementation of integrated and sustained fieldwork experiences. The experiences occur under the supervision of and with the support of occupational therapists or other qualified individuals. To ensure that the fieldwork activities support and enhance the goals of the program there is continual collaboration by clinical educators, academic faculty, and the academic fieldwork coordinator.
Level I Fieldwork
Level I fieldwork is highly integrated with the curricular framework and supports the two curricular themes of critical thinking and clinical reasoning and professional development through engagement. The three level I fieldwork experiences progress developmentally and support developmentally-focused coursework for each semester, beginning with pediatrics in the second semester, continuing on with adults in the third semester, and ending with older adults in the fourth semester. The third and final level I experience has an additional focus on the social and psychological factors that impact occupation.
Students are required to complete 3 level I fieldwork experiences, in their preferred geographic regions, related to each semester's coursework. OTAs are required to accrue a minimum of 40 hours onsite, per clinical rotation, and PTAs are required to accrue a minimum of 50 hours onsite, per clinical rotation. The academic fieldwork coordinators will help guide the students in selecting potential sites suitable for each semester's curriculum, the students' educational needs based on their current skill sets, and the students' geographical areas.
Students may choose, and are encouraged to choose, one of the three Level I experiences under the supervision of a non-occupational therapist. This “non-traditional” Level I experience may enrich a student's professional growth and provide learning that a student may not experience with an occupational therapist. However, the curriculum design is built upon an adult learning model and recognizes that such an experience may not be valuable to all students since each has different prior learning experiences, educational backgrounds, and learning styles. Students who would like to complete a Level I in a non-traditional setting are asked to complete a brief proposal that identifies how the learning experience will meet specific objectives, relate to the curriculum design, and enrich their professional development.
As part of the Level I Seminar course, the students also engage in both live and online discussion of the experience. Specific questions are posed to encourage critical and clinical reasoning, explore the differences in roles and education of the occupational therapy assistant and occupational therapist, the frames of reference being utilized, and the specific occupations being performed by the clients.
Level II Fieldwork
Students participate in two back-to-back twelve-week level II fieldwork rotations following successful completion of the fourth academic semester. Students participate in online Blackboard discussion boards geared toward heightening their critical thinking and clinical reasoning skills throughout both level II fieldwork rotations. Through this platform, students are able to support one another with resource sharing and they are able to stay in close contact with the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator. Successful completion of their Level II Fieldwork fulfills the requirement for graduation and enables one to be eligible to apply for the NBCOT Certification Examination.