Document Type (Journals)
Fieldwork is an integral portion of occupational therapy education that ensures students have the opportunity to develop basic competencies in real world practice settings. The national shortage of fieldwork placements, particularly in the area of mental health, in combination with the COVID-19 pandemic, have led to the adoption of increasingly innovative fieldwork models. This retrospective, qualitative study investigates occupational therapy assistant students’ experiences of completing a faculty-led (i.e. where faculty served as the primary fieldwork educator) and virtual (i.e., where services were offered in a virtual environment) Level I fieldwork with a community-based peer led behavioral health agency. Twenty-three students completed a confidential survey describing their experiences in Fall 2020. A secondary analysis of students’ responses was performed using principles of thematic analysis, which yielded results centered on four themes: knowledge, skills, attitudes, and structure. Subcategories highlighted growth across multiple areas including knowledge of occupational therapy’s role in mental health, interpersonal skills, and use of technology and other resources. Students’ preconceived notions of individuals with mental illness were challenged and many reported increased confidence in their abilities to work with these individuals. Both positive and constructive feedback were provided regarding the overall virtual fieldwork experience. The faculty-led virtual fieldwork model was viable in supporting occupational therapy assistant students’ skills to engage people with mental health and substance use challenges in a community setting. The potential use of this model is discussed in light of the anticipated increase of behavioral health problems for many across the lifespan post-COVID-19 pandemic.
Tiffany L. Benaroya, OTD, OTR/L is the academic fieldwork coordinator and a lecturer for the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at Rutgers University. Her research interests are in fieldwork education, pedagogy, and mental health.
Margaret Swarbrick, PhD, FAOTA is a Research Professor and Associate Director of the Center of Alcohol and Substance Use Studies, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University; and the Wellness Institute Director, Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey. She has developed wellness focused programs for prevention treatment and recovery support for people with a variety of needs.
Michelle Zechner, PhD, LSW, CPRP, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation & Counseling Professions at Rutgers University. Her research interests include inter-professional health initiatives and education, aging and wellness for people living with chronic conditions and their families.
Ann Murphy, Ph.D., CPRP is an Associate Professor and Director of the Northeast and Caribbean Mental Health Technology Transfer Center (MHTTC) in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Professions at Rutgers University. Her research interests include workforce development, implementation science, and interdisciplinary education on health care and mental health.
Meredith Cimmino, DPT, PT is a physical therapist. She is a doctoral student in the Department of Psychiatric Rehabilitation and Counseling Profession at Rutgers University. Her research interests include integrated healthcare.
Declaration of Interest
The authors report no delcarations of interest.
Benaroya, T. L., Swarbrick, M., Zechner, M., Murphy, A. A., & Cimmino, M. (2022). Faculty-Led Virtual Level 1 Community Fieldwork during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Occupational Therapy Education, 6 (2). https://doi.org/10.26681/jote.2022.060217
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