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Occupational Therapy Assistant Student Fieldwork

Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) student fieldwork is a crucial aspect of their training, encompassing practical experiences to apply theoretical knowledge and develop clinical skills.

It consists of Level 1 and Level 2 experiences.

Level 1 involves introductory, short-term placements for observation and basic interaction.

Level 2 comprises more extensive, immersive experiences where students apply advanced skills with increased independence.

OTA students engage in diverse clinical settings, working under supervision to integrate classroom learning, refine professional skills, and prepare for their roles as integral members of the occupational therapy team.

Fieldwork experiences can vary based on program requirements and the specific focus of each placement.

Level 1 Fieldwork

"The goal of Level I fieldwork is to introduce students to fieldwork, apply knowledge to practice, and develop understanding of the needs of clients." (ACOTE, 2023, p.38)

Level 1 fieldwork for Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) students is an introductory hands-on experience designed to familiarize them with the field of occupational therapy.

This phase involves short-term placements, typically ranging from a few days to a few weeks.

During Level 1 OTA fieldwork, students observe and participate in basic occupational therapy activities under the direct supervision of experienced practitioners. The primary goals include gaining exposure to clinical settings, understanding the role of an OTA, and beginning to apply foundational skills learned in the classroom. It serves as a foundational step before students progress to more advanced and extensive Level 2 fieldwork experiences.

While there are common elements in Level 1 fieldwork experiences for OTA students, there can be variations based on the specific program, educational institution, and goals of the fieldwork placement.

However, Level 1 fieldwork experiences for OTAs generally share some common characteristics:

1) Introduction to Clinical Settings

     Level 1 fieldwork is designed to provide OTA students with exposure to various clinical settings, such as

     hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or community-based facilities.

2) Observation and Basic Participation

     Students typically observe and participate in basic occupational therapy activities under the direct supervision

     of experienced practitioners. The emphasis is on gaining familiarity with the occupational therapy process.

3) Application of Foundational Skills

     OTA students begin to apply foundational skills learned in the classroom to practical situations. This may

     include assisting with therapeutic activities, interacting with clients, and understanding the role of an OTA in

     the delivery of occupational therapy services.

4) Supervision

     During Level 1 fieldwork, students work under the direct supervision of experienced occupational therapy

     practitioners. This supervision helps guide their learning and ensures a safe and supportive environment.

Despite these commonalities, the specific details of Level 1 fieldwork experiences can vary between OTA programs. Program-specific factors, such as curriculum requirements, goals, and the types of clinical settings available, contribute to these variations.

OTA students should refer to their program's guidelines and communicate with their academic advisors or fieldwork coordinators to understand the expectations and structure of their Level 1 fieldwork experiences.

Level I fieldwork may be met through one or more of the following instructional methods:

• Virtual environments*

• Simulated environments*

• Standardized patients*

• Faculty practice*

• Faculty-led site visits*

• Supervision by a fieldwork educator in a practice environment

Level 2 Fieldwork

"The goal of Level II fieldwork is to develop competent, entry-level, generalist occupational therapy assistants. Level II fieldwork must be integral to the program’s curriculum design and must include an in-depth experience in delivering occupational therapy services to clients, focusing on the application of purposeful and meaningful occupation. It is recommended that the student be exposed to a variety of clients across the lifespan and to a variety of settings." (ACOTE, 2023, p.39)

Level 2 fieldwork for OTA students is an advanced and immersive phase that builds on the foundational experiences of Level 1.

Divided into two full-time 8 week placements, Level 2 fieldwork allows OTA students to apply more advanced clinical skills in real-world settings.

Throughout Level 2 fieldwork, OTA students work under supervision to refine their professional skills, demonstrate competence, and prepare for entry-level OTA practice.

The experiences can vary in settings and populations served, providing a comprehensive and diverse preparation for the demands of their future roles.

The specifics of Level 2 fieldwork can vary significantly based on the OTA program, accreditation standards, and the goals of each fieldwork placement.

Here are some factors that contribute to the diversity of Level 2 OTA fieldwork experiences:

1) Settings

     Level 2 fieldwork can take place in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, schools, community-based

     organizations, and more. The chosen setting can significantly impact the nature of the experience.

2) Populations Served

    OTA students might have the opportunity to work with different populations, such as pediatric, adult, geriatric,

    or individuals with specific conditions or diagnoses. The focus of the fieldwork experience can vary based on

    the population served.

3) Duration

    The length of Level 2 fieldwork experiences varies among programs. Some programs may have shorter, more

    focused placements, while others may opt for longer durations. Generally, Level 2 OTA Fieldwork consists of 2

    different placements each lasting 8 weeks

4) Supervision and Independence

    "Level II fieldwork supervision is direct and then decreases to less direct supervision as appropriate for 

     the setting, the severity of the client’s condition, and the ability of the student to support progression toward

     entry-level competence." (ACOTE, 2023, p. 41)

5) Goals and Competencies

     Each OTA program may have specific goals and competencies that they aim to address during Level 2

     fieldwork. These goals are often aligned with the program's curriculum and the desired outcomes for students

     as they transition to entry-level OTA practice.

Given these variations, OTA students should refer to their program's guidelines, communicate with their academic advisors or fieldwork coordinators, and be aware of the specific expectations for Level 2 fieldwork.

This individualized and diverse approach allows OTA students to gain a broad range of experiences and prepares them for the complexities of their future roles as occupational therapy assistants.

Follow the links below for information regarding the NBCOT Exam and Licensing for OTA students.


* See ACOTE Standards 2023 Glossary


Fieldwork Management webpage from from the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)

Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTEĀ®)

ACOTE Standards from Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTEĀ®)

New England Occupational Therapy Education Council (NEOTEC)

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