OT Research Article Spotlight

Skills necessary for success on Fieldwork: Assessment, Intervention, Medical Knowledge, Positioning/Mobility, and Professional Skills.
Communication was the top skill needed and lacking according to Level II FW educators.

Article

Fieldwork Educators’ Expectations of Level II Occupational Therapy Students’ Professional and Technical Skills

Authors

Jessica Mason, OTD, OTR/L; Cynthia L. Hayden, DHEd., OTR/L, CHT; Renee Causey-Upton, PhD., OTD, OTR/L

Journal

The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy

Purpose

Explore Level II fieldwork educators’ perceptions of occupational therapy students’ professional and technical skills at the beginning of Level II fieldwork.

Research Objectives

  • Determine if fieldwork educators perceive students as being adequately prepared for Level II fieldwork experiences.
  • Identify the technical and professional skills fieldwork educators expect of occupational therapy students at the beginning of Level II fieldwork experiences.
  • Identify technical and professional skills that fieldwork educators indicate students might be lacking at the beginning of Level II fieldwork experiences.

Participants

Purposeful sampling was used to select participants.

Inclusion criteria

  • Current practicing fieldwork educators from a university database.

Return Rate

  • Three hundred and fifty-three surveys were distributed, and 65 surveys were returned (18.5% return rate).
  • Surveys were excluded from analysis due to lack of signature (8 surveys) to indicate consent and incomplete surveys (3 surveys).
  • Total surveys analyzed: 54

Demographics of participants

  • Variety of practice settings.
  • Primarily physical dysfunction settings

Research Design

Convergent parallel mixed-method design—with the sample, the researcher collects quantitative and qualitative data at the same time to address objectives of the study.

Measures

  • Data was collected through a survey available both online and mailed to current fieldwork educators.
  • Survey questions were developed based on the literature review that was completed by researchers.
  • Survey included 12 closed and three open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions used a Likert Scale to rank Professional and Technical Skills needed at the beginning of fieldwork and Professional and Technical Skills that are lacking at the beginning of fieldwork.
  • Likert Scale Ranking
    • 1-5
    • 1=least important
    • 5=most important

Results

Quantitative Portion of Study:

Data Analysis:

  • Participants ranked skills needed and lacking on survey using Likert Scale (1-5)
  • Ranking of skills were assigned a point value: (1=5 points, 2=4 points, etc.)
  • Point totals were added for each skill and mean value was found for each skill
  • Skills ranked in mean order from highest to lowest.

Specific results from data analysis:

Top five PROFESSIONAL skills NEEDED at beginning of fieldwork to be successfulTop five PROFESSIONAL skills LACKING at the beginning of fieldwork
Communication skillsCommunication Skills
Personal responsibilityProblems solving skills
Problem solvingInitiative
Use sound judgement and safetyManage time effectively
InitiativeCreativity
Top five TECHNICAL skills NEEDED at beginning of fieldwork to be successfulTop five TECHNICAL skills LACKING at the beginning of fieldwork
Plans, implements, and grades interventionPlans, implements, and grades intervention
Clinical reasoningClinical reasoning
Completes required documentationAcquires information through both standardized and non-standardized assessment
Acquires information through both standardized and non-standardized assessmentPlans for discharge and transitions
Select interventions for managing a client-centered plan throughout the OT processUses evidence-based services to maintain and enhance competence.

Full list available in article in the following tables:

Table 1 Professional and Technical Skills Perceived to be Essential at the Beginning of Level II Fieldwork

Table 2 Professional and Technical Skills Perceived to be Lacking at the Beginning of Level II Fieldwork

Qualitative Portion of the Study:

Data Analysis:

  • Open-ended question asked what clinical skills are needed for a student to be successful in a clinical setting.
  • Themes were in the areas of: (1) Occupational Therapy Assessments (2) Intervention (3) Medical Knowledge (4) Positioning/Mobility and (5) Professional Skills

Examples of skills needed in each theme:

  • Occupational Therapy Assessments: FMC testing, Grip/Pinch Testing
  • Intervention: NDT, Splinting,
  • Medical Knowledge: Anatomy, HIPPA,
  • Positioning/Mobility: Body Mechanics, Wheelchair positioning
  • Professional Skills: Clinical reasoning and judgement skills.

Full list available in article in the following table:

Table 4 Identified Skills Necessary for Success

Limitations of study

The sample size was small, which affects generalizability. Other issues that affect generalizability: the area of practice of the majority of the survey participants was physical dysfunction. Mental health and pediatric practice were not well-represented in this survey. There may be different skill sets that are needed for fieldwork in these settings. The researchers did not provide information on the geographical regions of the participants. The participants were selected from the fieldwork database of a university. Therefore, the assumption could be that these fieldwork sites are all over the country. However, this information is not explicitly stated in the article. The focus of this research is on what is needed to be a successful occupational therapy student in the fieldwork setting and cannot be generalized to an occupational therapy assistant student.

Takeaways for student

Determining the requirement for fieldwork can be daunting task for students. When starting a fieldwork, the student is apprehensive with whether he or she has the necessary skills to be successful in the placement. The results of this study provide a comprehensive list of the skills needed for success in a fieldwork placement and what skills are lacking. The results of this study gives the students a clear understanding of what areas to focus on to ensure success during fieldwork.

Takeaway for clinician

Providing the right amount of support to fieldwork students varies based on the ability of the student. Many students, like clinicians, have varying levels of strengths and weaknesses. Having a clear understanding of the skills that are needed and what is lacking with students can adequately prepare fieldwork supervisors to get ready for incoming students. This can include completing a list of resources to make for students to review as needed, in addition to communicating what skills are required to the academic institution when assigning a student.

Takeaway for academic instructors

There are some stark statistics from this study: (1) 78.2% of the participants reported “some disconnect” between academia and the clinical site setting (2) 14.5% perceived a significant disconnect (3) 3.6% reported no disconnect, and (4) 1.8% who reported a total disconnect.

It goes without saying that clinicians believe that there is a disconnect between academia and the clinical site. This is an opportunity to explore the disconnect to address the issues that clinicians observe. This is also an opportunity to address these areas with follow-up to ensure that clinicians are being heard, which will assist with continuation of placements. Instructors can also provide lab and assessment experiences that incorporate the skills that are needed and areas that are lacking to ensure adequate preparation from day one of a fieldwork setting.

Article access: This is an open access article. Full article can be found here: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/ojot/vol8/iss3/10/

Citation: Mason, J., Hayden, C. L., & Causey-Upton, R. (2020). Fieldwork Educators’ Expectations of Level II Occupational Therapy Students’ Professional and Technical Skills. The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 8(3), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.15453/2168-6408.1649

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