What is Level 1 Fieldwork?

Fieldwork, an integral aspect of OT school, and one of the most intimidating aspects! During OT school, fieldwork is split between level 1 and level 2 experiences. While everyone pretty much knows what level 2 fieldwork is, because it is more talked about, level 1 fieldwork is also a very important part of the OT learning experience. So, what is it? How is it different from level 2 fieldwork?

Level 1 fieldworks are short experiences in a wide variety of settings during the didactic portion of OT school, while level 2 fieldworks are reserved for after the completion of the didactic portion and are 12 weeks long at one facility.

Examples of level 1 fieldwork experiences are:

  • 3 days at a local school working with one child
  • 3 days at an assisted living facility completing group sessions with residents
  • 1 week at an outpatient clinic
  • 1 week at a non-traditional setting like an adult day program or community mental health program

In my program, we completed various level 1 experiences during our 3rd and 4th semesters that coincided with our intervention courses. During our 3rd semester our intervention courses included pediatrics and mental health, so our level 1s included 3 days at a preschool, 3 days at a community mental health setting, 1 day at an adolescent rehabilitation program, as well as numerous on-campus experiences where parents brought their kids in.

During our 4th semester out intervention courses included adult and geriatrics, so our level 1s included 3 days at an assisted living facility/memory care unit, 2 days at our school’s community pro bono clinic, and 1 day at an adult day program, as well as an on-campus fall prevention clinic and many simulations with actors and community members seeking treatment.

An important aspect of Level 1 fieldwork is that you are under the supervision of 1 or many OTs, usually your professors, and it is treated similarly to classes because you are completing assignments, writing down intervention ideas, and developing care plans. You will never be on your own treating a patient during your level 1 fieldwork experiences, this is simply an opportunity for you to get comfortable with the OT process.

Tips for Level 1 Fieldwork

  1. Always bring something to write on – a clipboard, notebook, paper… and don’t forget a pen!
  2. Collaborate! If your class is large like mine was, you will most likely be placed in groups, so collaborate with your peers. Develop intervention plans and bounce around treatment ideas together.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your professors and supervising OTs are there to help and ensure that you are safely treating your clients.
  4. Seek out learning opportunities. Is there an interesting client coming to the clinic that you want to sit in on a session with? Is there a specific treatment protocol that you would like to implement but need some help doing it properly?
  5. Embrace the feedback that your supervisors and professors give you – it’s not personal! they are just trying to help you learn and grow as a student and clinician.
  6. Soak in all of the learning you can. Don’t be a passive bystander, get fully immersed into the experience. The more involved you are, the more you will learn and grow!
  7. Be professional!! That includes how you present yourself physically and how you communicate with others.

Learn more about fieldwork from AOTA here.

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