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The Fieldwork Program

Learning theories support the supposition that didactic material, supplemented with experiential opportunities, facilitates optimal learning. One way occupational therapy programs provide experiential learning opportunities is through required fieldwork rotations. The goal of MWU's Occupational Therapy Program is to exceed the standards set by the Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). It is the student's responsibility to fully engage in all fieldwork opportunities and to integrate the didactic component of the program into the fieldwork experience. This manual serves to provide information to enhance the fieldwork experience, as well as provide guidelines for post-fieldwork II procedures. Please read this manual carefully and contact the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator if you have any questions.

The Occupational Therapy Program at Midwestern University educates students as generalists with a broad exposure to the delivery models and systems used in settings where occupational therapy is currently practiced. Fieldwork education is to be provided in settings that are equipped to meet the curriculum goals, and provide educational experiences applicable to the academic program. While recognizing the diversity of students and their career goals, the OT Program ensures that each student receives this broad exposure through placement in varied fieldwork settings and with clients across the lifespan. The student is counseled as early as the application interview process, and then again more formally in the Fieldwork Foundations course, that fieldwork assignments must be diverse. The student fieldwork selection process is monitored by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator, as well as the Faculty, to ensure that students' fieldwork experiences are varied.

The goal of Level I Fieldwork is to introduce students to the fieldwork experience, and develop a basic comfort level with and understanding of the needs of clients. Level I fieldwork is integral to the program's curriculum design and includes experiences designed to enrich didactic coursework through directed observation and participation in selected aspects of the occupational therapy process. Qualified personnel for supervised Level I fieldwork include, but are not limited to, occupational therapy practitioners initially certified nationally, psychologists, physician assistants, teachers, social workers, nurses, and physical therapists.

The goal of Level II Fieldwork is to develop competent, entry-level, generalist occupational therapists. Level II fieldwork is integral to the program's curriculum design and includes an in-depth experience in delivering occupational therapy services to clients, focusing on the application of purposeful and meaningful occupation and/or research, administration and management of occupational therapy services. It is required that the student be exposed to a variety of clients across the life span and to a variety of settings. The fieldwork experience is designed to promote clinical reasoning and reflective practice; to transmit the values and beliefs that enable ethical practice; and to develop professionalism and competence as career responsibilities.

Purpose

Supervised fieldwork experience in occupational therapy is an integral part of both the educational process and professional preparation. It is intended to complement academic preparation by offering additional opportunities for growth, learning to apply knowledge, developing and testing clinical skills, and for validating and consolidating those functions that comprise professional competence.

The purpose of fieldwork experience is to provide occupational therapy students with the opportunity to integrate academic knowledge with application skills at progressively higher levels of performance and responsibility. The unique contributions of fieldwork experience include the opportunity to test first hand the theories and facts learned in academic study and to refine skills through client interaction under the supervision of qualified personnel. Fieldwork also provides the student with situations in which to practice interpersonal skills with patients/clients and staff and to develop characteristics essential to productive working relationships.

Requirements

All MWU OT students are required to complete a 0.5 credit Fieldwork Level I - Community rotation, a 2.0 credit, 2 week Level I Fieldwork rotation, and two 12-week Level II fieldwork rotations. A student must complete all coursework at a passing level and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 to be eligible for Level II fieldwork placement. A student must complete all Level II fieldwork at a satisfactory level in order to graduate and be eligible to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) Examination. ACOTE Standards require that students complete a minimum of 24 weeks of full-time Level II fieldwork. This may be completed on a full-time or part-time basis, but may not be less than half time as defined by the fieldwork site. 

Performance and Evaluation

Level I fieldwork, and Level II fieldwork experiences are designated as courses in the academic program. Students will receive a grade of pass (P), fail (F) or incomplete (I) for each Level I and Level II fieldwork experience. Level I grades are determined by individual course syllabi. Level II grades are based on the evaluation received on the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Fieldwork Performance Evaluation (FWPE) form, completion and receipt of the Student Evaluation of the Fieldwork Experience (SEFWE) form, completion of all course requirements, and approval of the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and the Program Director. Fieldwork Supervisors are asked to complete the AOTA Fieldwork Performance Evaluation (FWPE) at mid-term and at the end of fieldwork rotation. A student must achieve at least minimal competence as determined by the FWPE while on fieldwork in order to pass a fieldwork course.

Student Supervision

Fieldwork educators who supervise students must remain sensitive to the changing needs of each student while, at the same time, promoting the student's development of effective therapeutic relationships, evaluation and treatment techniques, and clinical problem-solving skills. In addition, the fieldwork educator must facilitate the assumption of professional responsibility, behavior and attitudes, self-confidence, and personal growth.

In addition to regularly scheduled lectures and conferences, supervision includes spontaneous discussions, instruction, and guidance. The student/supervisor relationship should be a shared growth experience built on mutually determined needs and objectives. Fieldwork educators give students the feedback essential to their development as therapists and receive students' feedback, which is essential to continuing development as fieldwork educators. The need for open, direct, and timely communication cannot be over emphasized.

Fieldwork educators provide a solid foundation and framework of knowledge and experience from which the student can develop a professional identity and philosophy. Independent functioning, thought, and experimentation are encouraged. Students may share in planning programs based on their needs as assessed by their fieldwork educators, as well as their own individual interests and concerns for professional growth. Different approaches to student supervision may be indicated for different students. There is no single "right" way for the student supervisor to approach every problem or situation. Student supervision is essentially a relationship, and each student offers a new and different experience to the fieldwork educators. Through experience each fieldwork educator will develop personal abilities and philosophy concerning the "techniques" and "approaches" useful for supervising students.

Fieldwork requirements are guidelines that represent minimal expectations of performance. The amount and depth of knowledge and experience the student gains depends on the degree to which the student shares the responsibility for learning. The end result of the fieldwork experience is to have the student prepared to take on the responsibilities of a staff therapist (entry-level therapist) in a given area of practice.

Ongoing communication will occur through web discussions, emails, telephone calls and fieldwork site visits during the time students are on their Level II fieldwork rotations. The academic fieldwork coordinator makes every effort to stay in communication with students and fieldwork educators throughout the process.

It is the students' responsibility to communicate with the academic fieldwork coordinator when there are issues, health concerns, including pregnancy, absenteeism, anxieties, or other matters that may impact their performance and successful completion of these courses.

Illinois Campus, OT Program

Minetta Wallingford, MHS, OTR/L
Asst. Professor & Academic Fieldwork Coordinator          
T: 630.515.6188
F: 630.515.7418
mwalli@midwestern.edu

Advising

All fieldwork advising is handled by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator. The Program Director is immediately informed and continually updated on the progress of any student experiencing difficulties during a clinical experience. Other faculty advisors, when necessary, may be involved in the process. Students who have concerns about their fieldwork progress, or fieldwork supervisors who have concerns, should contact the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator immediately.

Costs

All students must be prepared financially to assume the costs that will accompany any fieldwork assignment. In addition to full tuition and fees, expenses may include: additional immunizations, drug testing, physical examinations, finger printing, transportation, travel, parking, housing, and meals, as well as incidental costs such as materials for a special project. It is advisable for the student to have access to a car during fieldwork in the event that public transportation is inadequate or they have to travel some distance to their location. The estimated cost of one fieldwork placement can amount to approximately $4,000.00.

Due to the availability of excellent clinical sites throughout the contiguous United States, all students must be prepared to affiliate at sites away from their permanent address, which would then require relocation for one 12-week placement. When it is possible, consideration will be given to those students who have special needs or cirsumstances.

Student Placement Protocol

The following placement protocol is designed to maximize the usage of the Occupational Therapy Program's fieldwork resources in an equitable and timely manner. The Academic Fieldwork Coordinator is committed to providing a carefully orchestrated effort to ensure optimal fieldwork experiences. The process involves the collaboration and corroboration of students and the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator. Placement conflicts will be handled between the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and the student. The Academic Fieldwork Coordinator may utilize cumulative GPA scores and/or any one or more other factors including, but not limited to, residence, preferred learning styles, and previous exposure/experiences. Ultimately, the final decision regarding all fieldwork placements is the responsibility of the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator.

The following is the placement process:

Students will be notified of their final placements no later than eight weeks prior to the initial starting date. Student requests to change their fieldwork placement after fieldwork placements have been finalized will not be honored. Conflicts, cancellations, and special circumstances do not apply to the above-noted timeline and will be handled on a case-by-case basis as deemed appropriate by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator.

In the event that extraordinary circumstances occur that have the potential to affect fieldwork placement, the student is responsible for notifying the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator immediately. The Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and Program Director will then determine if the circumstances warrant special needs consideration. 

Guidelines for Assigning Fieldwork Placements

The Occupational Therapy Program at Midwestern University adheres to the ACOTE guidelines which state that a graduate from an ACOTE accredited master's degree level occupational therapy program must be educated as a generalist with a broad exposure to the delivery models and systems used in settings where occupational therapy is currently practiced and where it is emerging as a service. Fieldwork education is to be provided in settings that are equipped to meet the curriculum goals, and provide educational experiences applicable to the academic program. While recognizing the diversity of students and their career goals, the OT Program ensures that each student receives this broad exposure through placement in varied fieldwork settings and with clients across the lifespan. The student is counseled as early as the application interview process, and then again more formally in Fieldwork meetings and in the Fieldwork Foundations courses, that fieldwork assignments must be diverse. The student fieldwork selection process is monitored by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator, to ensure that students' fieldwork selections are varied. The OT Program also evaluates compliance with this standard through retrospective review of its placement history.

Level I and Level II rotations:
For each rotation, students will provide a prescribed number of selections from a list of available fieldwork sites. Students will be assigned a site based upon a random match made by the Fieldwork Manager computer software program. The random matching process takes into consideration student selections, but may not always result in students being assigned to one of their selected sites.

Level II placements must be in different practice areas, each with a different delivery model/system, and/or with exposure to clients of differing age groups. Level II placements may include, but will be limited to, one placement in a highly specialized or narrowly-focused setting.

OT Fieldwork Practice Settings

The stated practice settings set by ACOTE are also used in the Fieldwork Data Forms. Fieldwork Data Forms are available for students to view in the Fieldwork office. Students can choose any of the following settings or other emerging areas of practice that are available at the time of the fieldwork match:

1. Hospital based settings

2. Community based settings 


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