If you’ve landed on this article, you’re probably just about done with your OT program’s curriculum and are about to start preparing for your Level II fieldwork.

Hooray! You’ve made it so far and you are so close to the home stretch.

As you’ve likely been told, your Level II fieldwork will incorporate everything you’ve learned during your coursework in a real-life, hands-on setting.

Fieldwork really is an amazing yet challenging experience that will help shape you as an occupational therapist. You will be able to take your favorite interventions you observe or learn from the practicing OTs and add them to your “bag of tricks” as you go.

Your Level II fieldwork will fly by, and it may also feel like an eternity at times. You may have an awesome setting that you just “get” right away, or you may have the most challenging experience of your career, but both experiences will pay off in the end (I promise!).

Important Topics to Study Ahead of Time

First things first, you’ll want to brush up on the setting you’ll be working in. You may have an out of state assignment that you are moving for, so don’t forget to pack all of your phys-dys books for adults, your mental health books, and your pediatrics books for the setting you’re going to.

If you’re going to work in any rehab setting, really brush up on muscles, nerves, innervations, and dermatomes. This is all the tricky stuff from neuro and anatomy. Be sure to watch videos of Manual Muscle testing, goniometry, and transfers. 

If you’re doing an inpatient rehab fieldwork, the outcome measures such as FIMs can be tricky if you haven’t used them before. Definitely do your research on them as well as typical interventions for the setting.

In pediatrics, you will want to reteach yourself all of the essentials like sensory integration, common pediatric conditions and developmental milestones.

Extremely Helpful Resources

If you didn’t purchase Karen Sames’ book Documenting Occupational Therapy Practice in school, I highly recommend it as it covers everything from goal writing, evaluations, discharges, SOAP notes, and tons of skilled terminology. I used it constantly in both of my Level II’s and during my first few months of practice on my own before I really got the hang of note writing.

One other “resource” I used on the daily was my Kwik-Clips Occupational Therapy clipboardIt has MMT/goniometry scales, goal writing phrases, dermatomes, spinal cord injury levels, CVA effects, and more of the essentials that are really helpful to glance at when you’re on the move. I still use mine today in acute care when I need a quick refresher.
(Quick disclosure: These are Amazon affiliate links, meaning I may get a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase from my link.) 

Living Expenses for Level II Fieldwork

Remember that your fieldwork will probably take up at least 40 hours a week, and you will be exhausted from all of the information your brain is taking in.

Work will be very difficult to try to juggle in addition to your clinicals. If you can get a small loan of some sort for living expenses, it may really help ease your stress of making ends meet…even though the thought of more loans in addition to your tuition may give you palpitations!

If you absolutely need to work, getting a weekend babysitting job where you can study and/or intervention plan while kids nap/play/whatever would be my recommendation.

Activity Analysis and Grading Up/Down

Before you start fieldwork, brush up on activity analysis and grading up/down. You will do this with every patient every day. Also read up about medication conditions, lab values, and all post surgical precautions.

A quick reminder that activity analysis and grading entails breaking down the specific patients’ deficits that make it hard for them to perform daily tasks. This could be things like left hemiplegia, decreased safety awareness, left neglect, poor standing tolerance, for example.

Then, you’ll brainstorm all of the activities that address each specific deficit and make it the “just right” challenge for the patient (ensuring the task is not too hard, not too easy).

I struggled with this during fieldwork and thankfully had an understanding CI to teach me, but you’ll earn extra bonus points having this in your skill set before you even start 🙂

Study the Code of Ethics

It also won’t hurt at all to read your state’s and AOTA’s Code of Ethics since you will be in this brand new experience and may have some very difficult standards for productivity.

I remember being surprised after my second week at one of my fieldworks reading in one of my textbooks that under Medicare you can’t bill for non-face to face time (I had no clue!).

So along with all of the other recommended things to brush up on, try to carve out a bit of extra time on ethics since your CI might not think to educate you on this right away.

Introduce Yourself to Your CI Before Your First Day

It’s always a good thing to start to start off on the right foot with your CI to see what you should prepare for, since they will devoting so much of their time for the next three months teaching you more than you thought possible.

Be sure to send your CI a formal introductory email if you can, at least a few weeks before you start. In this you can and should ask her or him where you need to show up, what time, what you should really focus studying in preparation along with your course notes.

Lastly, BREATHE!

I know you have a million and one things to try to do before starting fieldwork but here’s the thing: If you’re feeling anxious about starting, remember that you are there to learn and you will be fine.

The first couple of weeks you will mostly just be observing the patients and soaking it all in before getting hands-on, so don’t forget to take notes of what interventions your CI does and tweak them if you like. Your CI will also learn from you and your fresh-out-of-school, brand new evidence-based research knowledge!

Take it one day at a time and enjoy it for what it is and you will very soon look back and think, “Wow, that was fast!”

If you’ve been having any concerns prior to starting, or if I’ve missed any important factors of pre-fieldwork prepping, please let me know in the comments below.

And best of luck!

This post was originally published on June 11, 2016 and updated on March 28, 2021.

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