Gaining diverse, real-world experience is essential for occupational therapy assistant students. That is why St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program is dedicated to providing students 720 hours of immersive fieldwork experiences to help them transition into practitioners. Supervised by a certified instructor, fieldwork allows students to put their online and skills lab curriculum into practice in an actual rehabilitation setting.
St. Catherine University’s Online OTA fieldwork experiences are divided into two levels: I & II.
- Level I: Introduces students to the fieldwork experience in a small group format.
- Level II: Students put their coursework into action with actual clients, while supervised by a certified instructor.
There are so many questions prospective students have about fieldwork experiences and what they can expect. Here are the top questions our admissions counselors receive about this hands-on portion of the Online OTA program.
1. What is Fieldwork?
Fieldwork is the clinical experience students must complete prior to graduation. It is an opportunity to work with an OT or OTA to demonstrate hands-on competency in the coursework you have completed online and in skills labs. This is done through two different kinds of fieldwork experiences; Level I fieldwork, which introduces students to practice areas, and Level II fieldwork, which prepares students to work as an entry-level OTA.
Fieldwork goes hand in hand with what you’ve learned in your coursework and labs.
– Michelle S., Online OTA Student
2. What is an Academic Fieldwork Coordinator?
The academic fieldwork coordinator is the faculty member who will work with students to set up their fieldwork placements and run the courses associated with fieldwork.
3. What is a Fieldwork Educator?
The fieldwork educator is the OT or OTA who will supervise students during fieldwork Level I and Level II. They are responsible for completing students’ fieldwork evaluations which determine if they pass the fieldwork courses. Fieldwork educators are also called clinical instructors at some sites.
My fieldwork educator is amazing. They are there to support you and help you succeed.
– Alex J., Online OTA Student
4. What is Level I Fieldwork?
Level I fieldwork is comprised of two 3-day experiences that are completed in a small group format (3-6 students) during the second half of the second semester. Students will gain experience with a variety of populations that may include aging, developmental disabilities pediatrics, physical disabilities, and mental health.
5. What is Level II Fieldwork?
Once students have completed all of their coursework and labs, they will be scheduled into the Level II fieldwork experiences. This occurs during the fourth semester of the Online OTA program. Level II includes two 8-week, full-time experiences.
- First Level II Fieldwork Experience: Completed in a psychosocial setting that may include a traditional mental health setting, a skilled nursing setting with memory care emphasis, or a pediatric placement.
- Second Level II Experience: Completed in a physical disabilities setting that may include an acute care hospital, rehab hospital, skilled nursing facility, in-home health, or an outpatient setting.
Level II fieldwork 2 is more hands on; you’re put to work.
– Michelle S., Online OTA Student
6. When do students find out their fieldwork locations?
Online OTA students typically find out about placements for Level I and Level II fieldwork experiences at least 8 weeks in advance. If students have special circumstances that require more notice, they may ask their academic fieldwork coordinator for more advanced notice.
7. How far do students need to travel?
St. Catherine University provides students with dedicated fieldwork coordinators who will work with them to identify the best possible locations for their needs. There are several factors that go into finding an appropriate fieldwork placement for each student. If a student wants to stay within a commuting distance of their home, academic fieldwork coordinators will do their best to find an appropriate site within 90 miles of their address. However, in some geographic areas, it may be more difficult to find placements because they are more rural, or don’t have placements available.
8. What kind of sites can I go to?
St. Catherine University Online OTA students have a variety of sites for fieldwork practice. They can include skilled nursing facilities, acute care hospitals, outpatient settings, home health, school systems, pediatric clinics, early intervention, animal based therapy clinics, and rehabilitation hospitals. One of the most important requirements is that the site has an OT or OTA willing and qualified to supervise students for a minimum of 8 hours a week.
9. Will I be able to work during fieldwork?
The decision to work while in the program is up to the student. However, fieldwork experiences are full time (40 hours/week) plus study time to prepare for the next day. If a student does need to work, it is recommended that he or she schedules it around fieldwork days.
St. Catherine University has more than 500 clinical affiliation agreements that allow you to gain valuable Level I and Level II fieldwork experiences in a variety of health care settings.
Some nationally and regionally recognized affiliates include:
- Genesis Rehab Services
- Dignity Health
- HCR ManorCare
- LHC Group
- NHC Rehabilitation
- Aegis Therapies
- NovaCare Rehabilitation
- Health South
- Encompass Home Health and Hospice
- Brookdale Senior Living Solutions
- Select Medical
- Heritage Healthcare
- Regency Integrated Health Services
- Consonus Healthcare
Comprehensive Learning; 80% Online, 20% Onsite
Fieldwork experiences are the culmination of St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program. The learning process begins with online coursework. Those lessons are then applied during skills labs and, ultimately, in fieldwork practice.
I think getting out into the real world and using what you’ve learned the last 10 months is very special and exciting.
– Alex J., Online OTA Student
After Fieldwork is Completed
Once you successfully complete your Fieldwork experiences and graduate from the OTA program, you will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for occupational therapy assistants. But before you practice, you must pass the NBCOT® exam in order to be certified to practice.
To help guide your success after graduation, St. Catherine’s now offers an NBCOT® Prep Coaching Program. The NBCOT® PCP is a collaborative program designed to support graduates through the process of preparing for the NBCOT® exam.
How it Works:
- Students take a 200 question practice exam given during Practice Models/Professional Issues II course (semester 3).
- A 7-week study plan is developed based on a student’s results.
- Participants meet weekly in group education session with a coach and peers.
- Coaches check-in weekly to assist with any issues a student may be having while preparing for the exam.
Are You Ready to Get Started?
If you are ready to start a fulfilling career that is ranked highly in Best Health Care Support Jobs by U.S. News and World Report 2020, take your first step today. Contact our admission team today to find out how to begin your journey as an occupational therapy assistant.