Sep 03

Fieldwork Education = Professional Development

Are you a new graduate looking to begin mentoring level I and II students?

Are you wondering how to improve your developing fieldwork educator skills?

Are you a seasoned occupational therapy fieldwork educator wondering what’s new in the world of fieldwork education?

Are you looking for some continuing education credits (for both licensure and NBCOT) that will enhance your student supervision, service delivery and/or administrative skills?

STudent and supervisor sitting at a computerIf you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you would benefit from attending AOTA’s Fieldwork Educator Certificate Program in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Oct 3 & 4. For more information, or to register, click HERE.

Registration ends September 18 – don’t delay!

Questions? Email Chris Achenbach at

Feb 25

Thinking Outside the Box – Expanding Fieldwork

Awareness of occupational therapy as a profession has improved (haven’t we been asking for this for a long time?), and applications to OT and OTA programs have tripled in the past 5 years. What does that mean? It means the burden on clinicians is greater for providing clinical educational experiences for OT and OTA students but also providing observation experiences for those who are exploring OT.  Whether you are involved in educating fieldwork students or not, you are probably aware of the increase over the past years in requests for fieldwork as well as requests for high school students’ observations or shadowing.

As a trainer for the AOTA’s Fieldwork Education Certificate Program, I promote other ways of providing fieldwork than just the most popular 1:1 apprentice:preceptor model. Just as we as clinicians try a new technique when the old one isn’t as effective with our patients, we can do likewise in educational situations. Among Etown’s 300+ fieldwork sites, a group/collaborative or multiple student model is more prevalent in mental health settings than physical rehabilitation. Of note is that Mayo Clinic’s OTs and PTs ONLY take 3 level II students at once instead of just 1. They offer their expertise on how others can implement it. If you are interested in learning more about it, check out the Journal of Allied Health1. Mayo has provided a model from which we are welcome to create opportunities.

Alternatives to the 1:1 model include 1:2+ (supervisor:students), 2:1 (supervisors:student), remote supervision, multiple site models and any other model you may create as long as the student is

  • Meeting the level II requirements of the Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education (section C of the ACOTE standards).  These include, but are not limited to: a minimum of 8 hours per WEEK of supervision; fieldwork educator is “adequately prepared” as a fieldwork educator; and the student meets “entry level” at the end of 12 weeks as your site’s OT job description describes it
  • Your site’s expectations are met (including what the third-party payers require, e.g. Medicare’s line of sight supervision).

stick figure with thought bubble, standing outside of red boxWe can also think outside the box and have more than 1 supervisor in the case of 2 part-time OTs supervising 1 student. A student can also provide services at a remote location if supervision is provided appropriately.  As long as the “primary” fieldwork educator is an OT who is adequately prepared and has been employed as an OT for at least a year following initial NBCOT certification, the sky’s the limit. A secondary supervisor does not have to be an OT but could be a service provider who understands the role of OT sufficiently to guide the student.

One fieldwork site, where Elizabethtown College OT students participate in level I and II fieldwork, uses a model that emphasizes theory, reflection and creativity in treatment planning. One supervisor oversees several dyads of students who work in various units providing NON-reimbursed OT services. This gives a value-added service to the residents of the program, a learning experience for the students, and multiplies the lone OT’s effectiveness several-fold. This facility will be presenting on their model at AOTA annual conference in April in Nashville.

I am hopeful that we can begin to branch out into new models to demonstrate that OTs and OTAs are, indeed, flexible and creative problem-solvers. The future of our profession depends on educating today’s students. I am optimistic that you will embrace this opportunity and partner with your friendly neighborhood OT or OTA fieldwork coordinator to find new solutions to a growing challenge.

If you would like more information about this or any other opportunity listed here, please contact Elizabethtown College’s OT Academic Fieldwork Coordinator about how we can explore the possibilities. Chris is available at or at 717-361-1146.

1Rindflesch,A. B.,  Dunfee, H. J., Cieslak, K. C., Eischen, S. L., Trenary, T., Calley, D. Q., & Heinle, D. K. (2009). Collaborative Model of Clinical Education in Physical and Occupational Therapy at the Mayo Clinic. Journal of Allied Health, 38(3), 132–142

Dec 03

Fieldwork Educator Certificate Program in Mechanicsburg, PA

Fieldwork Coordinator and alum, Chris Achenbach, and fellow alum, Bronwyn Keller, will present the 2-day AOTA Fieldwork Educator Certificate Program at Mechanicsburg HealthSouth on Sat/Sun Feb 7-8, 2015. If you have been waiting for this course to return to the south central PA area, here’s your opportunity! We are betting that snow will wait until another time and we can complete the 15 hour training across both these days. Please go to AOTA to register. This course will meet NBCOT Professional Development Units and PA state license (and other states’) continuing education/competency requirements. There are sections in the material that are applicable to clinical treatment, staff supervision and even personal relationships! Talk about one-stop shopping! A true value for your continuing education dollar! Join AOTA and save even more!  Don’t delay – the registration deadline is January 23rd, and we need a minimum of 20 participants. Hope to see you there!Flyer for AOTA Clinical Educators' Certificate Workshop

Oct 10

Think Spring!

Spring is a busy fieldwork season at Elizabethtown College! We have 2 cohorts of students, all of whom must complete 10 visits of level I fieldwork during this semester. The juniors are starting their very first level I fieldwork in sensory, perceptual and cognitive assessment and treatment (OT 332). The seniors are wrapping up their third and final level I fieldwork in psychosocial assessment and intervention (OT 434).

bright purple crocuses

Our program is growing! This spring, we anticipate having 48 seniors in OT 434 and 37 juniors in OT 332. We can only make this happen with your help  – our local clinicians as well as some of our clinicians who are further away from Etown —(some students may do 5 days of level I fieldwork over spring break March 2-6, 2015). Level I fieldwork will begin during the 3rd or 4th week of January, and most placements during the semester are needed on Mondays and Wednesdays.  There is a real shortage of psych-based OTs everywhere and it seems especially in south central PA. Of the 4 psych OTs within an hour’s drive, only 1 can take level I students. We rely primarily on non-OTs from diverse healthcare backgrounds in south central PA to help our students understand psychosocial dimensions and the delivery of psychosocial interventions in various settings.  We need everyone to consider how they can help students recognize and intervene with psychosocial issues with any age group, in any setting.

Student supervision and education is critical to our students’ learning objectives but also in touching the future of occupational therapy and in fulfilling AOTA’s Centennial Vision. I would be glad to talk to you and your organization about how fieldwork education can benefit everyone!  Please contact me to discuss how you can help support Etown this coming spring semester.  Thank you!

Christine L. Achenbach, MEd., OTR/L
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator & Instructor
Phone: 717-361-1146

Aug 27

Blue Jays back to school

Welcome back signsThis week is the beginning of the new academic year!  The O.T. department proudly welcomes 52 new freshmen students, along with 51 sophomores, 39 juniors, 48 seniors, and 34 graduate students.  Did you add that up?  224 students!  We are excited for a new year with our wonderful students – the best OT students in the country!

What advice do you have to offer to our new and returning students?  Any helpful tips?  Please add your ideas in the comments below.


Students in human development class, observing babies

Look at the numbers for the juniors through graduate students – these students will be needing level I & II fieldwork now through the summer.  You can support Etown by providing a student with real life learning.  For information, contact Christine Achenbach at or 717-361-1146.

Aug 20

Fieldwork Myth #5: We’re not a psychosocial setting.

Louisbourg_LighthouseALL patients involved in healthcare have an emotional response to their diagnosis, treatment and other aspects of their care. If a patient is emotionally labile after a stroke, we address that emotional lability and help them learn to cope with their new normal. If a child with limited self regulation has a meltdown in therapy, we address their regulation and coping skills, preferably with the family so they can carryover these skills at home. If a family asks about the support they need to manage their loved one’s care after discharge, you may make referrals to support groups or to the team’s social worker or psychologist in addition to giving some practical skills for dealing with the change in demands on the family. Does this sound familiar to you?

Addressing psychosocial issues can be overt as in traditional mental health settings or it can be integrated into a treatment plan in a physical rehabilitation setting, school setting, and more. Recognizing these components helps our students learn these vital therapeutic skills. Maybe we all need to be more intentional in our thinking about this aspect of our daily therapy practice.  If you are not in a “mental health” setting, think about the psychosocial aspects of your patients’ lives – how do you address these as an OT?  How can you help fieldwork students integrate this aspect of care into therapy?

Aug 06

Fieldwork Myth #4: I must be available 8 hours/day, every day while I have a student.

clockThe OT educational standards do not require this.  However, your employer may have other rules, policies or expectations about supervising students.  Some third-party payers also have policies about students’ provision of therapy and needing direct supervision for reimbursement of student services.  So, check with your supervisor, administrator or business/billing office to be sure you know what is required for supervising students where you work.

See myth #2 – full-time supervision is not required by the OT education standards.  Does this change your thinking?  Do you still have questions about student supervision?  Feel free to comment or contact me.

Jul 23

Fieldwork Myth #3: I don’t have enough experience.

hands painting with leaves New grads can supervise level I students and don’t need to wait – you already know more than a level I student!   OT educational standards (section C) state that therapists who have been certified for 1 year can have their own level II students.

For OTs in nontraditional or emerging practice areas, the standards state that a fieldwork educator must have at least 3 years’ experience in that setting.

What experience do you have that you could offer to a student? Consider the possibilities!