University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Blog | Joyce


Fieldwork Meltdown

, by Joyce · email · comment

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What is fieldwork anyways?
If you’ve talked to OTs or OTS you’ve probably heard this term thrown around. Overall, fieldwork is an out-of-classroom experience to practice your clinical reasoning and therapeutic skills under the appropriate supervision. The reason why I say “appropriate supervision” is because they may not always be an occupational therapist.

I know, I had the same thoughts running through my head. To break it down, fieldwork experiences can be categorized into two levels, Level 1 and Level 2. To be clear, for your level 2 fieldwork, you must be under the supervision of a registered and licensed occupational therapist. However, for your level 1 fieldwork, your supervisor can vary. From my own personal experience, my first “CI” (clinical instructor as we call them in the OT world… not white collar criminal informant) was a life skills coach at ICAN California Abilities Network, a day program for adults with intellectual disabilities. In addition, a few of my peers worked under the supervision of a physical therapist, a certified occupational therapy assistant, or even a psychologist.

While your head might be spinning and your anxiety shooting through the roof, I learned that it’s okay. For your level 1 fieldwork, the objective is to gain an understanding of the needs of the clients. While each experience varies, most students use this time to observe and discuss with their CI the needs of the clients that they encounter and what treatment plans could look like. You never know what you can learn if you keep an open mind.

For example, this last week was my full week of Level 1 fieldwork, meaning instead of going to class, I was going to my fieldwork site, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles USC University Center of Excellence for Developmental Disabilities (CHLA UCEDD). I experienced such an enriched week of learning that varied from observing to actively participating in treatment sessions. What prepared me for this fieldwork site was my first fieldwork at ICAN working with the life skills coach. I observed the ways they worked with the clients who had Autism, Down Syndrome, or Cerebral Palsy. Even though they weren’t occupational therapists, I took that time to really engage in conversations with the clients to get a tiny glimpse of what their life and daily routine was like. This built a strong foundation of communication and interpersonal skills that translated over to my fieldwork here at CHLA UCEDD. And because my clients at ICAN were 22+, I was able to see what life can be like for the children I see at my current fieldwork. This allowed me to start that clinical reasoning as to what skills should the individual be working on throughout their childhood and adolescence in order to be as independent as possible in their emerging adulthood years.

It took me a while to understand the meaningful lessons I gained from ICAN. Honestly, I was just really bitter about the fact that I wasn’t placed at a setting with an occupational therapist. However, upon reflection, have I continued to resent my placement and closed the door on many of the wonderful conversations that took place, I wouldn’t have had that knowledge to reflect back on when interacting with clients today.

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