Occupational Therapy Level Two Fieldwork Experience
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Occupational Therapy Level Two Fieldwork Experience

In this podcast, Salus University Occupational Therapy (OT) faculty member Anna Grasso, OTD, MS, OTR/L, CAPS, ECHM, associate professor and fieldwork coordinator, discusses Anita Werner’s ‘24MSOT and Megan Seiter’s ‘24MSOT level two fieldwork experiences.

Occupational therapists working with a pediatric female clientDr. Grasso: For those who aren't familiar with what fieldwork is in OT, OT programs are required to have students complete different fieldwork experiences, which are essentially internships. At Salus, our students participate in five fieldwork experiences. They start early in the program with what we call level one experiences, which are one-week long and about 40 hours each in a variety of settings. They have three level-one experiences. At Salus, the last six months of the curriculum are 12-week fieldwork experiences, which we call level-two [fieldwork experiences. 

Anita and Megan are currently on week nine of their first level two experience. I'd love to hear from Anita and Meg about their experiences on level two and let them share with all of you. Let's start with Anita - can you talk a little bit about why you chose Salus for OT school? And, then tell us where you are for your level two experience.

Werner: I am a legacy of Salus, so my parents went here as well as my brother. I always knew about Salus and since I was interested in OT, I looked into the program and it just seemed as though it was a good curriculum for me. Being at Salus, working with the faculty and learning things every day always reminds me of why I chose Salus. They have everything I need and want. It helps that the University is small so you can have one-to-one interactions with the faculty. I also like that it's close to home for me, being from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Grasso: Anita, can you tell us where you are now for fieldwork?

Werner: I'm at Mercy School for special learning in Allentown, Pennsylvania which is a private special education school. I mainly work with kids from six to 21. There is also a preschool program, but I don't work with them. A lot of the diagnoses we see in the school are ADHD, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, and other learning disabilities. Mercy provides students with an abundance of opportunities that can allow them to grow in their independence.

Dr. Grasso: Meg, can you tell us a little bit about why you chose Salus and where you are right now for your level two fieldwork?

Seiter: I am actually the opposite of Anita, I had never heard of Salus before. I'm from Point Pleasant, New Jersey, so kind of the opposite way of Salus, but I wanted to go somewhere new and experience something new, and Salus is only an hour and a half from home. It was kind of the best of both worlds. I started my college journey at the University of Delaware and I didn't enjoy the very big school type of setting, so I knew I also wanted the opposite of that [for OT school]. Salus ended up fitting both of those criteria.

Right now I am at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey in the acute care setting. We see anybody from an orthopedic injury, knee injury, hip replacement to the oncology patients, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord, and everything in between.

Dr. Grasso: Meg, can you describe what you are enjoying about your fieldwork so far? What are some of the things you've learned and what's the most rewarding thing about it? 

Seiter: I enjoy where we are. We're on the trauma floor and the orthopedic floors. It's cool to see such a wide variety of diagnoses, even though it is super fast-paced and everything is always changing. Nothing is ever the same from client to client or day to day, even if we're seeing the same type of injury, any treatment or evaluation is never the same, which could make it difficult, but it's also super cool to see how well we can help these clients and assist them from any type of injury.

Yesterday, somebody was talking to us and she was very thankful we were there and she was like, without you, “I really wouldn't ever get out of bed. I wouldn't be able to walk, I wouldn't be able to get dressed myself.” So just hearing from your patients how much you are helping them, even though I'm just doing the everyday stuff for me is cool to see.

Occupational Therapists working with a pediatric patientDr. Grasso: I love that, thank you, Meg. Anita, how about you? What are some of the biggest things you've learned so far and what would you say has been the most rewarding?

Werner: I would have to say that intervention planning has been huge in this school setting and it's nice to be able to finally do that at a clinical site. At Salus, we've learned about different types of interventions and how to plan them, but being able to make my own plans and implement them has been so exciting and rewarding too. I could see my work in the hallway, so I walk down and I always say, “Hey, I did that.” It gives you a confidence boost that [assures me] I can do this, I'm in the right field, I love what I'm doing. And, then having kids recognize you and say, “Hey, where's Anita?” It makes me just happy and puts a smile on my face to see every kid and try to help them as best I can. 

I also want to shout out my supervisor who is also a Salus alum, Kiersten M. Nice, MSOT ‘21. She has made this fieldwork super easy to transition from the classroom to a clinical site. She's always willing to help me and I feel like I'm learning so much from her just from the experience that I've been here.

Dr. Grasso: We love Kiersten. Anita, can you also describe starting [level one] fieldwork? What were your level one experiences? What settings were you in?

Werner: I was at an orthotics and prosthetics clinic for my first level one. That was trying to bring more awareness to occupational therapy in that setting. I was also at Rise Above Occupational Therapy Services, LLC., which was more like vision rehabilitation. It was cool to work with concussions and traumatic brain injury. I was also at Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital in Center Valley, Pennsylvania and that was inpatient rehab. 

Dr. Grasso: Where will you be going once this current rotation wraps up?

Werner: I plan to be going to the Lehigh Valley Health Network, specifically looking at hand therapy and lymphedema, swelling caused by a buildup of lymph fluid in the body between the skin and muscle. I’m excited and interested to learn about the scope of the practice.

Dr. Grasso: Meg, can you describe where you went for your level one rotations and where you're going next?

Seiter: My first level one was three settings in one. I was at a school, elementary school, outpatient, and then early intervention. So, I did all three of those within the week just based on my fieldwork supervisor's schedule. Then, my second one was In Hands, an outpatient hand clinic. And, for my last one, I went to Thailand. I got to do a study abroad travel OT, which was cool. At my next level two, I will be at a non-traditional OT rotation at a high school, with a mental health focus.

Dr. Grasso: You both have all had different experiences. With that in mind, what do you think fieldwork is going to do for you as you go into your career as an OT? How do you feel like fieldwork is preparing you? Or what about fieldwork is important?

Seiter: All of it is important just to go and see your transition from the classroom and applying all the knowledge we've learned, seeing what skills you need to learn more of or what you feel confident in. Also seeing how other therapists go about their day and different techniques, and strategies, you get different treatment ideas or even how to write your notes differently or more efficiently, stuff like that is cool to see just from therapist to therapist, even in the same setting, how much that could help you develop as a therapist of your own.

Dr. Grasso: Anita, what about you? How do you think fieldwork is preparing you for your future career as an OT? And, what about fieldwork has been important?

Anita WernerWerner: I think in general, doing the fieldwork will help me with patient care experiences, whether it be a student in the classroom or a patient in a hospital or an outpatient clinic. You get to have those interactions with a client and it develops your therapeutic use of self. So, I'm learning those skills, and getting better at those skills every day when I'm working with the kids. And, like I said before, with the intervention planning, I think that's going to help me even further. In my OT career, what we do is intervention, so it's great that I'm being able to plan them and then having different types of OT service delivery formats is valuable. I'm working with individuals and groups. So, I hope this can relay to my future profession and wherever that may be.

Dr. Grasso: Coming into OT school, did you have a specific setting in mind where you saw yourself working? If so, or even if not, do you feel like fieldwork has pointed you in one direction or do you still feel like your options are really wide open?

Werner: It's interesting you say that because I did come in with an adult outpatient idea in my head that was the setting I wanted to work with. But after being here, with kids in pediatrics definitely has potentially changed my mind. I'm not a hundred percent, that's why I'm excited for the next fieldwork experience too, to see and compare them. But this was my first rotation working with kids and I've ended up really loving it. So it's exciting, it leaves you wondering what am I going to end up in? But the options are endless.

Seiter: I have always wanted to work with kids. I've loved working with kids all my life, just babysitting and hanging out with cousins' families that were younger, and I think I'm still headed that way hopefully, but I'm open to trying something else. I'm not set on doing one thing the rest of my life, I'm open to trying new things and seeing if I develop better in a different setting.

Dr. Grasso: Hopefully all of these very different fieldwork experiences you have had will give you a reference point when you're going into your board exam. So, you'll be able to think back to your fieldwork in Thailand or your fieldwork at a vision clinic and say, oh, that helps me answer that question on the board exam, or gives you more things to talk about when you're going into your interviews for future jobs, post-graduation.

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