Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


An online survey was conducted of 225 occupational therapy (OT) practitioners living in the rural states of North Dakota and Wyoming to explore practice patterns and the influence of the college experience on employment choice. Findings showed that rural practitioners had greater variability of hours spent working (5.5 more hours per week, p=.028), and one more work location on average (p=.006). Therapists in urban settings spent 15% more time in fieldwork education than their rural counterparts (p=.021). Rural practice choice was influenced by participation in Level I and Level II fieldwork (p=.002) but not by loan debt. Study implications for academic programs include focusing on multiple areas of practice in the curriculum design, and exposure of students to rural practitioners and rural practice examples/experiences. Recommendations were made for rural fieldwork educator training and employer support of rural fieldwork education. Further study of the experience of working within a rural practice context as a student and OT practitioner are recommended, including variables impacting rural practitioner work with fieldwork students, and student interest in rural fieldwork placement.


Debra Hanson, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA is a professor and the academic fieldwork coordinator for the University of North Dakota (UND) Occupational Therapy Program. She is an advocate for use of research evidence to inform fieldwork education practices, and a strong support for students and fieldwork educators in rural practice settings.

Janet Jedlicka, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA is chair of and professor in the University of North Dakota (UND) Occupational Therapy Program. She has extensive experience in higher education and is an advocate for the diversity needs of individuals, facilities and communities.

Nicole Harris, MOT, OTR/L is the site coordinator for the University of North Dakota (UND) Occupational Therapy Satellite Program located in Casper, Wyoming and has experience as an occupational therapy practitioner in a rural state.

Marilyn Klug, PhD is an associate professor at the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Her research specialties include the areas of biostatistics, epidemiology, data management, restructuring and mining, parametric and non-parametric methods, regression analysis and multivariate analysis.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.