Overview and Introduction

This manual was created by the Midwestern University (MWU) Occupational Therapy Program to facilitate the students and fieldwork sites throughout the fieldwork experience. The faculty of MWU extends a thank you to all of the practicing professionals who take the time and effort to complete this final step in the process of preparing our students to become professional Occupational Therapists. Students use this manual throughout the Program as a guide and learning tool during their fieldwork experiences. We congratulate the students who have reached this point in their education and wish them continued success.

This manual is designed to provide basic information to both the students experiencing the fieldwork and to those professionals who are giving of their time and talents. Included is general information about the AOTA fieldwork experience and Midwestern University's occupational therapy program philosophy and curriculum design. This manual serves as a syllabus for the students undertaking fieldwork in conjunction with the Program Manual, and it also provides procedures, guidelines, and processes for both the fieldwork sites and the students related to fieldwork.
For additional information or questions please contact:

Illinois Campus                                       

Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
MWU, Downers Grove, IL  

Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Education: Value and Purpose

The purpose of fieldwork education is to propel each generation of occupational therapy practitioners from the role of student to that of practitioner. Through the fieldwork experience, future practitioners achieve competence in applying the occupational therapy process and using evidence-based interventions to meet the occupational needs of a diverse client population. Fieldwork assignments may occur in a variety of practice settings, including medical, educational, and community-based programs. Moreover, fieldwork placements also present the opportunity to introduce occupational therapy services to new and emerging practice environments. Fieldwork assignments constitute an integral part of the occupational therapy education curricula. Through fieldwork, students learn to apply theoretical and scientific principles learned from their academic programs to address actual client needs within the context of authentic practice environments. While on fieldwork, each student develops competency to ascertain client occupational performance needs, identify supports or barriers affecting health and participation, and document interventions provided. Fieldwork also provides opportunities for the student to develop advocacy, leadership, and managerial skills in a variety of practice settings. Finally, the student develops a professional identity as an occupational therapy practitioner, aligning his or her professional judgments and decisions with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

As students proceed through their fieldwork courses, performance expectations become progressively more challenging. Level I fieldwork experiences occur concurrently with academic coursework and are "designed to introduce students to the fieldwork experience, to apply knowledge to practice, and to develop understanding of the needs of clients" (Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education [ACOTE] Standards, August 2012 Interpretive Guide Version). Level II fieldwork experiences occur at the conclusion of the didactic phase of the occupational therapy curriculum and are designed to develop competent, entry-level, generalist practitioners. Level II fieldwork assignments feature in-depth experience(s) in delivering occupational therapy services to clients, focusing on the application of purposeful and meaningful occupation and evidence-based practice through exposure to a "variety of clients across the life span and to a variety of settings" (ACOTE, August, 2012).

The value of fieldwork transcends the obvious benefits directed toward the student. Supervising students enhances fieldwork educators' own professional development by providing exposure to current practice trends, evidence-based practice, and research. Moreover, the experience of fieldwork supervision is recognized by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and many state regulatory boards as a legitimate venue for achieving continuing competency requirements for occupational therapy practitioners.

Another benefit to the fieldwork site for sponsoring a fieldwork education program is with the recruitment of qualified occupational therapy personnel. Through the responsibilities expected during Level II fieldwork, occupational therapy staff and administration are given opportunity for an in-depth view of a student's potential as a future employee. In turn, an active fieldwork program allows the student, as a potential employee, to view first-hand the agency's commitment to the professional growth of its occupational therapy personnel and to determine the "fit" of his or her professional goals with agency goals. The fieldwork program also projects a progressive, state-of-the-art image to the professional community, consumers, and other external audience through its partnership with the academic programs.

In summary, fieldwork education is an essential bridge between academic education and authentic occupational therapy practice. Through the collaboration between academic faculty and fieldwork educators, students are given the opportunity to achieve the competencies necessary to meet the present and future occupational needs of individuals, groups, and indeed, society as a whole.


Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, (2012). 2011 Standards and Interpretive Guide Version. Available at