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Fieldwork education and the Experiential Preceptorship are essential parts of professional doctoral preparation and are integrated as components of the curriculum design. They are an extension of the OTD Program within the clinical/community setting. The fieldwork experience provides the OTD student with the opportunity to learn professional responsibilities by having them modeled by qualified and experienced personnel and to practice these responsibilities in a supervised setting. The Experiential Preceptorship provides an in-depth professional experience and the completion of a culminating (capstone) project. Fieldwork education and the Experiential Preceptorship are only conducted in sites that have a signed agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) with the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. This agreement formally identifies the responsibilities of the University and the site.

Fieldwork education includes Level I and Level II experiences. Level I fieldwork occurs during Term 3 (OT 2215 – Fieldwork Education A), Term 4 (OT 2219 – Fieldwork Education B), and Term 5 (OT 2226 – Fieldwork Education C). Level I fieldwork is designed to enrich didactic coursework through direct observation and participation in selected aspects of the occupational therapy process. Level I fieldwork is supervised by qualified personnel (e.g., currently licensed or otherwise regulated occupational therapy practitioners, psychologists, physician assistants, teachers, social workers, nurses, and others). OTD students are assigned to Level I fieldwork sites in the Greater Pittsburgh Area by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator in collaboration with the course instructors. The qualifications of individuals supervising students during Level I fieldwork are reviewed by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator to ensure that a meaningful learning experience can be provided.

Level II fieldwork is completed in Terms 6 and 7, (OT 2228 – Fieldwork Education D; OT 2229 – Fieldwork Education E). Level II fieldwork is distinct from Level I fieldwork. Students must successfully complete Level I fieldwork experiences prior to enrolling in Level II fieldwork. Level II fieldwork is an in-depth experience in delivering occupational therapy services to clients in traditional and/or emerging settings consistent with our OTD Program’s curriculum design. Each OTD student is assigned to specific Level II fieldwork sites to ensure exposure to a variety of clients across the life span and to a variety of settings. Students can complete Level II fieldwork in a minimum of one setting if it is reflective of more than one practice area, or in a maximum of four different settings. The OTD Program only uses sites within the United States that allow for supervision by an occupational therapist who meets state regulations and has a minimum of one year of practice experience, subsequent to the requisite initial certification. Level II fieldwork is a minimum of the equivalent of 24 full-time work weeks. Level II fieldwork may be completed on a part-time basis as long as it is at least 50% of a full-time equivalent at the site. The OTD student is assigned to a Level II fieldwork site by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and signs the Level II Fieldwork Acknowledgement Agreement. The performance of a student who does not successfully complete Level II fieldwork is critically reviewed by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and occupational therapy faculty. Satisfactory completion of targeted interventions by the student may be required prior to enrolling in a subsequent Level II fieldwork. The faculty reserves the right to place a student at a site in the Greater Pittsburgh Area based on the student’s academic performance and/or professional behavior.

After successful completion of Level II fieldwork (OT 2228; OT 2229), the OTD student engages in didactic coursework and training of advanced skills beyond the generalist level of an occupational therapist. OTD students enroll in OT 3208– Experiential Preceptorship (doctoral experiential component) (Term 9) after they have successfully completed all didactic coursework, Level I and Level II fieldworks, and a competency requirement. The Experiential Preceptorship (OT 3208) is a 16 week (640 hour) in-depth experience in clinical practice skills, research skills, administration, leadership, program and policy development, advocacy, and/or education and includes the completion of a culminating (captstone) project. The focus of the Experiential Preceptorship is on the development of skills for increased autonomy as a contributor to advancing occupational therapy practice. Preceptorships are completed in a novel practice setting or a traditional setting with a novel program, and have a connection with community issues or problems. Students are assigned a faculty mentor who oversees their Experiential Preceptorship, including development of learning objectives and plans for supervision. The Experiential Preceptorship is distinct from Level I and II fieldwork and is the final step in the preparation of the OTD student for entry-level practice.

These learning experiences (Fieldwork education and Experiential Preceptorship) prepare the OTD student to assume the roles of practitioner, manager, and contributor upon graduation from the academic program. Prior fieldwork, volunteer, and/or work experience hours cannot be applied towards the Experiential Preceptorship hours, and a student’s current work setting cannot serve as a site for his/her Experiential Preceptorship. The Experiential Preceptorship may be completed on a part-time basis. 

The culminating (capstone) project is a multi-faceted investigative assignment that students begin in Term 2. It is designed to encourage students to think critically, solve challenging problems, collaborate with other professionals, and to develop advanced skills in communication, research, teamwork, planning, leadership, self-reliance, professionalism, and advocacy – skills that will prepare them to respond positively and confidently to the many opportunities and challenges in today’s evolving and increasing complex practice settings. Although, the learning objectives for the Experiential Preceptorship and culminating project address all three roles of the occupational therapist – practitioner, manager, and contributor – the focus is on the development of skills for increased autonomy as a contributor to advancing occupational therapy practice. The projects address community issues or problems, and are implemented in novel practice settings.

Level II fieldwork (OT 2228; OT 2229) and the Experiential Preceptorship (OT 3208) must be completed within 24 months following completion of the didactic portions of the OTD Program. OTD students are responsible for securing all required resources in preparation for and during Level I and II fieldwork and the experiential preceptorship including but not limited to transportation, physical examinations and associated testing (e.g., drug screen), health insurance, liability insurance,  background checks and clearances, parking, housing, food, and clothing.