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Fieldwork Educator Resources

Fieldwork education and the Doctoral Capstone are essential components of professional preparation for the doctoral-degree-level occupational therapy student and are integrated in the curriculum design. They are an extension of the OTD program within the clinical/community setting. Fieldwork experiences provide the OTD student with the opportunity to learn professional responsibilities through modeling by qualified and experienced personnel and to practice these responsibilities in a supervised setting. The Doctoral Capstone provides an in-depth capstone experience and includes the completion of a capstone project. Fieldwork education and doctoral capstone experiences 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 in integrated with coursework during Term 2 (OT 2215 – Fieldwork Education A), Term 3 (OT 2219 – Fieldwork Education B), and Term 4 (OT 2226 – Fieldwork Education C). Level I fieldwork is designed to enrich didactic coursework through direct observation and participation. For Level I fieldwork A (OT 2215) and C (OT 2226), students are assigned to sites in the Greater Pittsburgh Area by the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator in collaboration with the course instructor. These Level I fieldwork experiences are supervised by qualified personnel (e.g., currently licensed or otherwise regulated occupational therapy practitioners, psychologists, physician assistants, teachers, social workers, nurses, and other health or education professionals). Level I fieldwork B (OT 2219) focuses on the development of the student's professional identity. This Level I fieldwork experience occurs internally with the Department and is supervised by faculty (course instructors). 

Level II fieldwork is completed in Terms 5 and 6, (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, following 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 provided 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 in collaboration with faculty and students sign 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.

In Term 7 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 and completes a competency examination. In Term 8, the final term of the OTD program, students enroll in the Doctoral Capstone (OT 3208 – Experiential Preceptorship; OT 3213 – Professional Development Seminar). The Doctoral Capstone is a 14 week (560 hours) in-depth experience in clinical practice skills, research skills, administration, leadership, program and policy development, advocacy, and/or education and includes the completion and dissemination of a capstone project. The focus of the Doctoral Capstone is on the development of skills for increased autonomy as a contributor to advancing occupational therapy practice. The doctoral capstone experience is completed in a novel practice setting or a traditional setting with a novel program and have a connection with community issues or needs. Students are assigned a faculty mentor who oversees their doctoral capstone experience, including the development of learning objectives and plans for supervision. The doctoral capstone experience 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 doctoral capstone experience) prepare the OTD student to assume the roles of practitioner, manager, and contributor upon graduation from the OTD program. Prior fieldwork, volunteer, and/or work experience hours cannot be applied towards doctoral capstone experience hours, and a student’s current work setting cannot serve as a site for their doctoral capstone experience. The doctoral capstone experience may be completed on a part-time basis. 

The doctoral capstone project is a multi-faceted investigative assignment that students begin associated preparatory coursework for in Term 1.  It is designed to encourage students to think critically, solve challenging problems, collaborate with professionals, and 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 increasingly complex practice settings. Although, the learning objectives for the Doctoral Capstone 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. 

Level II fieldwork (OT 2228; OT 2229) and the Doctoral Capstone (OT 3208; OT 3213) must be completed within 24 months following completion of the didactic portions of the OTD program (Term 4). 

OTD students are responsible for securing all required resources in preparation for and during Level I and II fieldwork and the Doctoral Capstone 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.