Our therapy staff has enjoyed serving our community and supporting our local technical, community college and university future occupational therapists with our Student Program. Internships and fieldwork programs are vital as it is required for many degreed college programs to obtain a specific amount of hours of work experience necessary to complete their education and find a job after graduation. Through fieldwork programs, students gain experience, develop skills, make connections, strengthen their resumes, learn specifics about a field and refine their abilities and formal education direction. Businesses can also benefit from a Student Program by finding future candidates for potential employment, giving back to their community, and enhancing their professional workforce with novel perspectives, fresh ideas, and specialized skill sets.
Our Student Program, governed by both State and National mandates, focuses on education and skilled learning objectives that will offer students a wide variety of clinical professional experience. In our outpatient occupational therapy clinic students learn about administering and scoring assessments, taking range-of-motion and strength measurements, custom splint fabrication, insurance billing, how to plan, facilitate, and properly document an occupational therapy treatment session, collaborate with other health care providers, observe staff navigate conflicts, as well as triumphs and observe the basics of running a business. Students receive an introduction to our Wellness Program which includes completing a body composition analysis, nutritional counseling, stress reduction, and addressing individualized health goals. In addition to technical skills, we emphasize the importance of professionalism and personal presentation in the workplace throughout the student’s fieldwork experience. We review dress code, communication skills, efficiency and time management, setting goals, team collaboration and ethical practice.
Having a Student Program has enriched our clinic with professional growth, refined our standards of practice, and has allowed us to cultivate the next wave of exemplary occupational therapists to support and grow our profession as a whole.
We have found the following essential components to a thriving and successful Student Program to include:
- Analyze your facility – is it equipped with appropriate resources necessary to provide students with learning opportunities to develop entry-level skills? Do you have staff available that can provide direct supervision? Enough space for parking, computer availability, necessary equipment for a student to train as well as contribute.
- Adequate liability insurance coverage
- A supportive venue that includes affable employees and clients
- The ability to interview and/or screen potential students
- Collaboration with technical, community college and university academic program fieldwork coordinator(s) & professors
- Fieldwork Contract – a legal document which should state the rights, fieldwork requirements, and obligations of the academic program supervisors, fieldwork site, and students. Include if necessary a no compete clause and/or sharing proprietary information.
- Develop student resources – create a list of learning objectives and schedule of activit
ies that will guide the student developmentally through their experience to build on to their skills
- Ongoing evaluation of performance – schedule times to meet with the student during and at the completion of their assignment to provide important feedback and discuss observations. Lead by example.
In our experience we have observed the following pro & cons to having a Student Program:
- Builds relationships with technical, community college and university professors
- Keeps all staff up to date and sharp with best practice techniques in our clinic
- Enhances staff communication skills
- Grows leaders and inspires staff to build on their knowledge base
- Refines our overall presentation of our craft with being in a teaching position
- Students are periodically not the ideal candidate for our clinic
- Time invested in training and teaching is not fiscally productive
- Insurance liability
- Some students may lack professional behavior or ability to build a rapport with our clients and staff