What is fieldwork in Occupational Therapy?
Fieldwork is where you will apply the professional reasoning and practice concepts you learned in class. You will get hands-on experience in a variety of practice settings throughout the lifespan, such as:
- outpatient clinics
- behavioral health
- rehabilitation facilities
- home health care
- adult day programs
- community-based programs
- adaptive yoga, dance, and martial arts
- refugee resettlement
- adaptive recreation
- role-emerging settings
- health promotion/wellness
- higher education disability services
- veteran services
- sleep services
- readiness to drive
- assistive technology
Your fieldwork experience is designed to engage students in opportunities that support the CSU-OT mission to optimize human performance and participation in everyday occupations, across all contexts, and throughout the lifespan.
Fieldwork Frequently Asked Questions
How does fieldwork progress over the program?
- Fieldwork is integrated with occupational therapy coursework to apply course concepts in practice with mentorship from occupational therapy faculty and fieldwork educators.
- Students gradually acquire performance competencies and professional behaviors expected of an occupational therapist through progressively greater responsibility and independence during supervised fieldwork experiences.
- Fieldwork is divided into two stages of professional performance with progressively higher expectations, Integrated Experiential Learning (IEL) and Level II fieldwork.
- There are four IEL fieldworks and two Level II fieldworks. IEL fieldwork range from 20-40 hours, including on-campus seminars with CSU-OT faculty. Level II fieldwork is for 12 weeks full-time or part-time as long as it is at least 50% of an FTE at that site.
- All fieldwork experiences must meet the current Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®) standards.
Where are the fieldwork sites located?
- There are in-state and out-of-state fieldwork placements available in our network of over 300+ contracts. The fieldwork office does ALL the recruiting of IEL and Level II fieldwork.
- Because of limited availability of fieldwork sites; however, and to ensure the best possible fit between you and a fieldwork site, you may be required to commute up to 2 hours OR to relocate to another region for IEL and Level II fieldwork.
What are the financial aspects of fieldwork?
You are responsible for the financial aspects of doing fieldwork, including but not limited to:
- Relocation expenses
- Commuting expenses
- Access to the Exxat fieldwork database system paid through student course fees
- CastleBranch Package OK30: Criminal background check, HIPAA/OSHA eLearning package
- American Heart Association Basic Life Support certification and renewal
- Professional Liability Insurance billed directly to student account approximately
- CSU OT Student Name Badge
- Prerequisites including immunizations and onboarding that are required by fieldwork sites
- AOTA and OTAC student memberships
What immunization, health, and student records are required for fieldwork?
- DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus) or TD (Tetanus, Diphtheria)
- Hepatitis B (three shot series)
- MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)
- Negative Two-Step PPD (TB test). An X-ray may be required if the test is positive
- Varicella vaccine, varicella titer, or date of chickenpox documented by medical records
- Physical exam
- Other immunizations such as COVID, flu shots, or exemption forms may be required by sites
- CSU-OT Photo Release Form
- CSU-OT Student Authorization to Release Records, OT Policies and Procedures for Fieldwork
- CSU-OT Student Authorization Information Form
- Equipment/Resource Use Form
- CastleBranch Package OK30: Criminal background check, HIPAA, and OSHA eLearning package
- CSU-OT Student Name Badge
- Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification by the American Heart Association
- World Health Organization (WHO) courses
Medical documentation is required for each immunization.
Note: Costs for immunizations, titers, and health checks vary across the country, check your local healthcare provider for information in your area.
How am I assigned my fieldwork?
- To achieve a successful learning experience, we are committed to matching your interests and abilities with characteristics of the fieldwork sites.
- You are provided group and individual advising for fieldwork site selection.
- We provide regularly scheduled fieldwork meetings to guide you during the fieldwork program.
- Faculty and staff in the fieldwork office recruit all fieldwork placements. CSU-OT has 300+ active fieldwork sites nationwide and internationally. The majority of these sites are located in Colorado; however, sites are available across the United States. Due to the limited availability of sites in Northern Colorado and to ensure the best fit between you and a site, you may be required to commute up to two hours or relocate. Fieldwork options in other regions or states will be discussed with the AFWC. Students are expected to pay for all costs associated with this such as gas, tolls, and temporary/double housing. Please plan accordingly.
Character requirements for fieldwork and board certification?
You may be required by fieldwork sites to complete screenings including but not limited to: criminal background checks, drug screenings and health/immunization requirements. Failure to successfully complete such requirements may lead to limited options for fieldwork. Contact the fieldwork office if you have questions about the criminal background check process to meet fieldwork requirements.
You must also pass similar requirements imposed by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) to be eligible to sit for the NBCOT exam.
Please review NBCOT’s Early Determination Character Review prior to applying to the program.
If you have questions or would like additional information you may visit the NBCOT web site.
What do I need for OTR certification?
To practice occupational therapy, you must pass NBCOT’s national certification exam. After successful completion, you will be an OTR (Occupational Therapist, Registered). All states require licensure to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT certification exam and continuing education requirements that are unique from state to state.
Additional information about licensure can be found on the AOTA website.
What is the CSU-OT policy on fieldwork sites charging fees for student placements?
Since the inception of the profession, The American Occupational Therapy Association has required fieldwork internships as part of the comprehensive educational preparation for occupational therapy/occupational therapy assistant students. Fieldwork is provided through contracted partnerships between OT/OTA academic programs and fieldwork sites in medical and community practice settings serving clients across the life span. These educational partnerships are based on a shared commitment to the next generation of entry-level practitioners to support the values and beliefs of the profession and create a diverse workforce to meet the health needs of society. The benefits of fieldwork partnerships extend to students, practitioners, employers, and clients. Fieldwork bridges academic and professional practice by developing students’ clinical skills, professional reasoning, professional behavior, theory, and evidence-based practice. And, by being continually engaged with student questions, practitioners engage in active clinical reasoning, which might otherwise become habitual. Fieldwork also strengthens the professional competence and continuing education of the fieldwork educator through academic faculty partnerships in practice and scholarship. Fieldwork increases therapist recruitment and clinical productivity for many sites. Therefore, fieldwork is perceived as a professional responsibility and service whereby experienced practitioners contribute to the ongoing development of their profession.
Charging fees for fieldwork threaten the historical values and beliefs of the educational partnership between academic programs and fieldwork sites, including the professional responsibility to promote continuation of the profession through educating upcoming practitioners. Further, charging fees introduces a risk of students expecting favorable outcomes with the exchange of money for fieldwork, an educational service. There are equity issues for students whose economic status presents barriers for the means to fund the fieldwork fee. Fieldwork fees create an elitist exception for those students who cannot afford fees, creating an environment of education at a price. Thus, not all students enrolled in the same program are eligible for a particular site, and not because of a perceived mismatch between the skills of a student and the needs of a facility. Rather, some students are able to access sites charging fees only because of personal economic resources. Fees are not value added, but only add burden to the student. There should be a level playing ground to give access to all students for fieldwork opportunities, not just for a few students who can “afford” the experience. Students should not have to fundraise or take out more loans to pay for foundational educational, clinical experiences and requirements for the degree. Most of all, it negates the educational partnerships supporting the mutual benefit of the student, fieldwork educators, and academic faculty who thrive with a lively professional discourse about evidence-based practice, clinical reasoning, and scholarly endeavors.
There is the possibility that sites expect academic programs to assume the financial responsibility to pay for students to do fieldwork, which is unrealistic and impossible given the sheer numbers of students in academic programs and financial hardship it entails.
Recipients of service, vested stakeholders in the fieldwork education process, also lose opportunities to influence and guide future OT practitioners. Many clients value the opportunity to work with energetic students who bring fresh ideas and new ways of doing into the traditional practice environment. Students motivate and invigorate clients in the therapeutic context with mutually valuable learning and service provision.
The CSU OT Department renounces and discourages fieldwork sites from charging fees for placements by not paying fees charged for fieldwork placements. The CSU OT Department neither supports nor endorses fieldwork sites charging fees for student placements. We stand united, alongside other fieldwork education consortiums (e.g., California OT Fieldwork Council, New England OT Education Consortium), against this threat to the fieldwork education partnerships in occupational therapy. Asking for payment from OT students, whose earning power will never even approach that of other professionals who have traditionally paid for internships is a travesty.