It’s 100% normal to feel stressed during your OT Level II Fieldwork. In fact, it may very well be a good test of willpower just to emotionally cope during this stressful part of OT school.

It’s also totally normal to feel utterly panicked, like I did during my second rotation working inpatient rehab with complex neuro patients.

Almost every day walking into work from the parking lot I had this ever-present sinking feeling in my stomach. I say almost because there were somehow a few sporadic “good mental health” days.

A feeling of dread, a feeling of…

What am I going to get wrong today?

(Disclaimer: I have to attribute some of these feelings to my anxiety which certainly didn’t make matters any better!)

If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed and that you aren’t going to make it, you definitely are not alone.

I wanted to share this post to hopefully lower your stress levels as you check off each day that you complete (you mean you don’t do that?!) and get that much closer to the end.

The Ultimate Learning Experience

My first Level II was split up with two CI’s at two different SNF’s, and at the time I thought this was really stressful. In hindsight, it was nothing compared to the stressful emotional roller coaster of my second Level II in inpatient neuro.

While now looking back, I’m of course ever-grateful to my CI who we jokingly referred to as my boot camp sergeant. At the time I certainly did not think I was going to make it through.

I still distinctly remember walks with my fiancé and my dog in the evenings where I would sometimes just break down and cry. Which I NEVER do. (Thanks, cortisol!)

I would search for jobs I could do with just my Bachelor’s in Psychology as I was sure that I wouldn’t be able to finish out that last semester and get my degree.

I think my case was a little more extreme than most, and hopefully will not happen to you. You may have a great and calm learning experience throughout.

But if you’re feeling more stressed than you ever have before, reading this will hopefully help you even a little to know that you aren’t the only one.

You will gain so, so much from having your CI with you every step of the way giving you tips and tricks, intervention ideas, an immeasurable amount of knowledge that school could never give you.

Not to mention how much the experience will teach you so much about documentation, among countless other subjects.

As a new practitioner, I really missed having that support system with me. I didn’t have anyone anymore to help guide me through the days.

That’s why I want to share with you…

7 ways keep your sanity and survive your OT Level II Fieldwork:

1. Remember that it one day will be over.

Take in as much as you can because before you know it, your rotation will be done and you will be on your own using the invaluable lessons you’ve learned.

2. Don’t feel bad for having a countdown.

And/or a meltdown! (Just keep it cool at Fieldwork!)

3. Carve out time for yourself.

Easier said than done when you’re completely exhausted and spend weekends planning for the next week, but please remember to be kind to your body and mind and have some leisure and fun time with friends or family.

4. Wine (optional) and other relaxers.

Wine was one of my best friends when I needed to unwind (of course don’t get too hungover for the next day at work!). Walking my dog was second, and yoga, coloring and meditation really helped me too when I was able to squeeze those in.

5. It’s okay to cry.

Cry it out as often as you need to. Just try not to cry too much in front of your CI if you can help it (although they will understand and have most likely had it happen before). I can thankfully count the times I cried in front of my CI on one hand, and she was very understanding about it given the amount of stress Level II students have. It probably will happen and it’s okay.

6. Your family is there for you.

It’s also okay to lean on your family for intense emotional support. They are there for you and are so proud you’ve made it this far.

7. Seriously, therapy is not out of the question.

If family is not the greatest support system for you or you need more support, I highly recommend seeing a therapist. You may feel like you don’t have the time but if you’re having borderline breakdowns, it can help you immensely. Although I do hope you don’t get to the point of breakdowns, of course.



It’s going to be okay.

Your classmates are going through the same thing, and every occupational therapist before you has gone through this rite of passage and survived to tell the tale.

Just remember: You are going to get through it and be an amazing OT (with no CI hovering over you one day!) and you’ll fondly look back, remembering how tough it was (or not that tough, if you’re blessed with two low stress clinicals. Lucky you!)

But realize how beneficial it was.

Take it one day at a time.

You WILL make it.

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  • Heather August 15, 2018   Reply →

    Thank you for this post! I really needed this at the moment, in a similar level II to your second placement and often feel like I have absolutely no clue what to do. Luckily I have a fantastic CI but my lack of confidence is still so disheartening to me most days. I need to keep reminding myself that I will get through it and appreciate all the things I’ve learned.

    Thanks again! Love your site.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L August 16, 2018   Reply →

      You will definitely get through it and will gain a wealth of knowledge from your experience. You’ll likely keep having those thoughts as a new grad as well (at least my classmates and I did!) but just know that you know more than you think. I’m glad the post was helpful for you and best of luck with the rest of your fieldwork!

  • Stephanie May 15, 2019   Reply →

    Thank you so much for posting this, I’m on my 3rd day in this same setting and feeling so overwhelmed, not confident and questioning if I can do this. This post is exactly what I needed to take a deep breath clear my head and just get pushing through.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L May 19, 2019   Reply →

      I’m so glad it was helpful for you, and best of luck with your fieldwork!

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