What are the Benefits of Taking a Fieldwork Student?
At a staff meeting, your supervisor asks if anyone is interested in taking on a fieldwork student. Everyone tries to avoid eye contact, look at their computers, and sink lower in their chairs, hoping that someone else will speak up. No one wants to do it. The thought of adding one more thing to your plate is overwhelming.
And yet, taking on a fieldwork student amidst our busy-ness just might be the exact thing we need to refresh and revitalize our own clinical practice.
In the article, “Factors Influencing Occupational Therapists’ Decision to Supervise Fieldwork Students,” the authors note several reasons clinicians might not want to take on fieldwork students.
You might worry that it’s too much work to take on a student when you are trying to meet productivity standards and caseload requirements. You might worry that you cannot devote enough time to a full-time student when you only work part-time. And, you might worry about failing a student and not feeling adequate to teach.
In our article, we will break down some of these reasons and share with you the biggest benefits of taking on a fieldwork student.
“It’s too much work.”
One of the biggest worries about taking on a fieldwork student is the addition of more responsibilities. Let’s face it: you’ve got documentation that you are still catching up on and you can barely see everyone you need to see in the day. When are you going to find more time to train/teach a student?
Despite this concern, having a fieldwork student can actually help lighten your load. Students can be a helping hand and can help with processes and functions that can improve your productivity. Here are a few benefits to taking a fieldwork student with respect to your workload.
Help with Client Service
You know all those things on your to-do list for clients that seem to be piling up? A fieldwork student can be a great help for these! Some examples of ways that students can help: getting resources together, sending and requesting information, or ordering equipment. These are tasks that allow your student to see and learn all the parts and responsibilities of being an occupational therapist, and they are big wins for managing your work.
Help with Productivity
You have productivity standards you need to keep and maintain. Depending on the level of your fieldwork student, students can help with assessing patients, treating patients, or with completing assessment reports and progress notes. Fieldwork students can help maintain your caseload and help you keep up with your productivity once they get in the swing of things.
Develop and Update Resources
Another way that students can help with productivity is to help to update your resources. This is a great way for students to learn about policies, procedures, as well as do research in your setting. While not directly related to your caseload, these tasks can help immensely in streamlining your productivity. Who knows… your student might even be able to find a resource or a procedure that can help with your caseload management!
Receive Professional Development Credits/Hours
As an OT, you have professional continuing education credits and hours you need to maintain. It can be challenging to find the time to do these on top of your other responsibilities. This is where taking a fieldwork student can be a great help. You can receive professional development credit while still carrying out your regular responsibilities. A win-win!
“But I only work part-time.”
Many occupational therapists work part-time. It’s great for flexibility and work-life balance, but it makes it difficult to take on a fieldwork student. If you work part-time, you might already feel stretched thin and wonder how unfair it might be to a full-time OT student who only has a part-time supervisor.
For OTs who work part-time, these are some extra benefits of taking a fieldwork student.
Increased Collaboration with Colleagues
The reality of taking on a full-time student while you are working part-time will mean that you would need to have a colleague to supervise your student on the days that you are not in. This means working together closely with your teammates. And while you see your colleagues day to day, having the shared responsibility of a fieldwork student can enhance your collaboration, communication skills.
Learn New Methods and Treatment Ideas
A great benefit to sharing a fieldwork student with your teammates is that you get to learn some new treatment methods or ideas that you might not have time to share or discover in your regular day to day. A fieldwork student might ask you about treatment ideas they saw with your colleague or reflect back the things they are learning. While they are doing that, you might get an infusion of ideas that you might not have had the opportunity to do with your teammates otherwise.
“But I don’t feel qualified to take on a student.”
This is overwhelmingly a common reason why many clinicians don’t take a fieldwork student. You might have fears and insecurities about sharing your knowledge and skills in your profession, especially if you have only been practicing a few years too. There is so much to learn as an OT, you might wonder if your skills are out-of-date, or if you have really learned enough to teach another person.
In reality, taking on a fieldwork student can actually help you with your clinical reasoning skills, and your practice as an OT. You don’t have to have it all together, and in fact taking a fieldwork student can improve your own clinical skills.
Some more ways that fieldwork students can benefit your growth as a clinician are:
Stay Up to Date with Theories and Evidence
There is nothing like having a fieldwork student to teach you about the latest theories and the newest evidence about assessment, treatment, and the practice of occupational therapy. One of the great benefits of taking a fieldwork student is the ability to grow your own practice by learning from them too. Taking a fieldwork student can be a reciprocal relationship – you can learn from them, as they learn from you!
Provide Opportunities for You to Reflect on Your Own Practice
As an OT, you might know more than you are able to articulate. By having a fieldwork student in your practice, you can be more intentional about thinking about what you are doing and why you are doing it. The National Board of Certification for Occupational Therapists values this ability to reflect on your own practice by including self-assessments as part of the renewal process. Taking a fieldwork student enhances this ability to reflect on your own practice – an important way to grow as a clinician.
Develop Your Leadership Skills
You can grow in your leadership skills when you take on a fieldwork student. You learn how to make your clinical reasoning explicit in order to teach others, you learn how to direct and supervise clinical care, and you develop skills that are important for moving your career forward in terms of leadership roles.
Support the Future of Occupational Therapy
Taking on an occupational therapy fieldwork student helps you as a clinician with your workload management, your collaboration with your peers and your own clinical skills and learning. But one of the greatest benefits to taking a fieldwork student is your contribution to the profession itself.
By taking on a fieldwork student, you get to hear what is going on in the field and you get to share your knowledge and passion with incoming occupational therapists. You can contribute and support the future of occupational therapy, and who doesn’t want to do that?
Additional Fieldwork Resources for Clinical Instructors: