occupational therapy inservice 2

13 In-Service Ideas for OT Fieldwork Students

If you’re an occupational therapy student completing your Level II fieldwork, you will likely have to come up with an in-service idea, which is an occupational therapy related presentation or project you’re responsible for. Take it from me, deciding on the perfect OT in-service idea for your fieldwork can be a daunting challenge!

Fieldwork flies by, and before you know it, it’s almost over and you need to come up with an idea ASAP!

I wholeheartedly recommend choosing a topic or project that you’re personally interested in and that you think will provide value to the therapists in your fieldwork setting. You can also take note of what your fieldwork setting needs in terms of intervention ideas or items and make or present on something based on that need.

But if you’re still drawing a blank, this post will help give you some popular OT in-service ideas to get started.

I want to note that these in-service ideas are tailored to the adult and geriatric rehab settings. If you’re looking for pediatric in-service ideas, Pinterest has a plethora of ideas for you as well.

Present on Current Research Relating to Common Diagnoses

When therapists have been treating for a while, it can be hard to keep up to date on the latest in occupational therapy research.

Fieldwork student in-services that are focused on current research are great ways to present the most up to date information to all practitioners, especially since students have the latest information from their schooling.

Present on a Case Study That You Saw While In Fieldwork

Another common theme for fieldwork in-services is to present on an interesting patient that you treated during your rotation. You could choose a patient that you saw an uncommon diagnosis or used a new intervention with. Adding in current research to the case study is also a great way to further educate coworkers and fellow students.

Create a Binder of Patient Education Handouts

This project is super helpful for settings that don’t have easy to access handouts to give to patients. In the settings I’m in (acute care and inpatient rehab), I regularly have to search for and print out patient handouts, so having a full binder of relevant worksheets to copy would be such a time-saver.

Here are just some of the topics my coworkers and I came up with while brainstorming:

  • Diabetes education
  • COPD education
  • Congestive heart failure education
  • Stroke education and/or prevention
  • Energy conservation techniques
  • Specific orthopedic precaution handouts with images
  • Tailored home exercise program
  • Home safety after discharge
  • Caregiver education for transfer techniques
  • Health promotion for the most commonly seen diagnoses in your setting

The list could go on and on for this one! I recommend writing a big “ORIGINAL” in yellow highlighter on each sheet so coworkers don’t accidentally take the originals without replacing them with copies. The highlighter will not show up on subsequent copies made.

Present on Functional Cognition Interventions

Presenting on interventions that address cognition functionally is a great topic since many of us in the field could use a refresher ourselves. Bonus points if you can create a clinic toolkit full of helpful worksheets to go along with the education.

If you need more information about functional cognition interventions, be sure to check out our article “Functional Cognition and OT: Our Time to Shine.

Educate on Sensory Integration in the Dementia Population

If you’re working with older adults, presenting on sensory integration with advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is a great way to educate other therapists who may not be as familiar with this. Here is some sensory integration information from Alzheimers.net to get you started.

Present on Low Vision Strategies

Along with many of these other topics, seasoned OTs as well as new OTs can benefit from education and adaptations regarding low vision in any setting. For more about low vision with regards to occupational therapy, check out these low vision strategies from AOTA to get started.

Make a Playing Card Velcro Board

Many rehab facilities I’ve worked in have a playing card Velcro board as a past in-service project since it addresses so many deficit areas. It’s great for visual scanning, functional reaching, standing tolerance, fine motor/gross motor coordination, attention, range of motion, and balance. The board will have each card attached with Velcro so the patient can match/attach the corresponding card, as seen below:


            Image via Pinterest, original source unknown

Create an ADL Vest

If your setting doesn’t already have one, making an ADL vest is a great functional and occupation-based intervention for patients with decreased fine motor coordination and can be easily utilized in the gym.

Adding snaps, small and large buttons, zippers, even bra clasps is a great way to work on dressing for any patient with difficulty managing this aspect of dressing, for when they’re in the gym and can’t actually work on it.

Dressing Vest with zipper buttons velcro and snaps by HomeGrownOT, $50.00:

                     Vest image via HomeGrownOT Etsy shop

Put Together a Folder of Quick Standardized Assessments

Many settings already have their own assessments for use, but in some settings, like acute care, it can be a challenge to find a quick and easy assessment on the fly.

If your setting doesn’t have their own collection of assessments, you can create a binder of free and quick assessments to use for aspects such as self-care, cognition, activity tolerance, balance, or fine motor coordination. This would be very valuable to any setting that doesn’t already have this!

Make a Medication Management Toolkit

Medication management is an important I-ADL to address for patients who will be going home and may be managing their own medications, especially if they have difficulties with high level cognitive tasks.

This is really important to address this before going home, so I make an effort to address this with any patient with even a mild cognitive impairment who will be doing this themselves when going home. The kit is also great for a fine motor coordination intervention.

For full detailed instructions on how to make your own medication management kit, check out this post from Carbon Creations. Trust me that it will be a valuable addition to any rehab setting!

                         Image via Carbon Creations

Make a “Groceries Galore” Kit

I created a Groceries Galore kit for one of my OT in-service projects when I was in my last Level II fieldwork, and it is super easy to make. Simply collect and rinse out various grocery containers of all shapes and sizes, with difficult lids and easier lids. You can add small Scrabble pieces, pennies, beads, etc. for an extra fine motor component.

Add your own price stickers to each container to grade it up to also address cognition. I also really like to have patients place the containers in high and low areas of our kitchen area for item retrieval, gross motor coordination, range of motion, and standing tolerance as a great occupation-based activity.

Put Together a Mirror Box

If you’re in a setting with stroke patients or complex regional pain patients, creating a mirror box is a really neat and helpful addition to the clinic. Here is a quick YouTube video on how to create and use a mirror box. Be sure to include printed instructions on how to use it as well as evidence supporting its use for future staff members.

Create Laminated Lab Value Cards

I saw this idea in one of the OT Facebook groups and thought it was great and would be extremely helpful. Facilities may already have printed out lab value sheets, but making small, pocket-sized laminated cards would be a great value to you as a student or new grad. Instead of having to rifle through your clipboard for lab values papers, a laminated version is easier to find and is much more durable.

If the expenses aren’t too high, you could earn bonus points from your CI and coworkers by printing out several to hand out for the team therapists or fellow students to have as a quick reference.

Don’t Just Stop at These Ideas!

This list of my favorite OT fieldwork in-service ideas is definitely just a starting point. There are so many other ideas you or your fieldwork student can present on. If you’re still lost for ideas, asking your coworkers for clinic needs or helpful topics is another great way to get more valuable in-service ideas.

I’d love to hear your previous in-service topics and favorite ideas as well! What else would you add to the list? Please share them in the comments below!

This post was originally published on April 6, 2017 and last updated on July 23, 2023.

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  • Andrea October 31, 2018   Reply →

    I’m currently in acute setting for my FW 2B. Having a hard time with ideas for my inservice. I love to be creative and bring different things but I’m having a hard time!

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L November 2, 2018   Reply →

      For acute care, you could see if your specific setting has a need for certain patient education handouts on diagnoses, precautions, etc, or lab values sheets for therapists. You could also present on an interesting diagnosis that you’ve seen. Your CI and other therapists at your site will know what they might need, so ask around for ideas! That usually never fails 🙂 Good luck!

  • Ben Hueftle January 6, 2019   Reply →

    These are super helpful! They’ll come in handy as I finish up my first level II fieldwork in a couple weeks. I always wonder about balancing what I think would be really great to have in a particular setting (in this case, a SNF) and what they (the OTs and OTAs there) are actually going to use. For example the grocery kit idea looks great (and I’d definitely want to use it) but kitchen-based interventions where I’m at tend to be rare. I suppose it’s a matter of collaborating with OTAs and OT about what kind of stuff you could bring that would be useful to the facility.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L January 9, 2019   Reply →

      I’m so glad these are helpful for you! Yes definitely check with the therapists and see what they might be lacking; that could give you an even better idea of what they could use while also being educational for you to create. Good luck with the rest of your fieldwork and your in-service!

      • Jen October 16, 2020   Reply →

        Im finishing up my second rotation in my level 2’s (was delayed due to covid) and i was placed with a home health company which i hear is rare for a student or new grad. Im struggling with an in service idea for my CI because she has everything! i was thinking a binder of pt handouts, or standardized assessments but shes already got a ton of that. I dont want to create anything to big due to her traveling and was trying to think of something that would be beneficial to her

        • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L October 24, 2020   Reply →

          You can ask your CI or even other company therapists/management what they may need, and if they don’t have any needs you could always cover a related topic/diagnosis or case study to present to the other therapists. Good luck!

  • LIna January 31, 2021   Reply →

    These sound like amazing ideas!! I’m currently doing my level II FW at a state hospital and I am in charge of the Forensic units. I am having a hard time thinking of ideas for my inservice cause I’m not a strong researcher.. I want to think of something creative but not sure what to do…

  • Julia February 3, 2021   Reply →

    Hello! I am currently on my second level II fieldwork at an outpatient clinic typically having a lot of orthopedic clients and some peds. I am also dealing with a lack of cultural competency at this current site. My supervisor made it clear that I do not have to do an in-service so if I turn around and say I do and it”s on cultural competency it feels slightly disrespectful. Does anyone have any ideas of how I can combine a project and cultural competency together? We see a lot of clients for shoulder ROM and pain.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L February 4, 2021   Reply →

      I don’t think it would be disrespectful at all! You could frame it that your program recommends that you do an in-service and that you’re interested in cultural competency and would like to do a brief in-service on this. It’s a really important topic in our practice (in every setting) that I believe the therapists will find useful. Would love to hear from others on this!

  • Susan March 16, 2024   Reply →

    Hi! Any ideas for an in-service project for an IP mental health facility?

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L April 1, 2024   Reply →

      You can never go wrong with case studies or an in-service on the latest research on any OT-relevant mental health studies, just as a start!

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