Evaluation of the Quality of Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Experiences


  • Donna Patricia Drynan University of British Columbioa
  • Jennifer Ann Turnbull Med Travelers
  • Leanne M. Currie University of British Columbia




fieldwork quality, occupational therapy, practice education


Practice education, or fieldwork as it is referred to in occupational therapy, is a fundamental feature of occupational therapy education, priming students to become competent entry-level practitioners. Factors reported as contributing to poor quality fieldwork experiences include: students not receiving enough feedback; lack of opportunity to develop skills; and not being made to feel welcome in the environment. These are significant contributors to the overall development of competence so it is important to understand the current context of fieldwork experiences being offered in relation to the notion of quality in those learning environments. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the quality of the fieldwork learning environment from the perspective of occupational therapists’ working in one region of Canada. A validated survey, the Quality of Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Experience (QOTFE) tool, was used to identify features of what might constitute quality fieldwork education, and to determine whether there was a difference in quality of fieldwork experience between practice settings or types of practice areas. However, there was minimal variability in scores based on practice setting and practice area variables. These findings indicate a consistent quality of fieldwork experience across practice settings and practice areas. This research presents a picture of the current quality of fieldwork experiences available to occupational therapy students. This may be a starting place for further investigation into the factors that contribute to the quality of practice education learning experiences

Author Biographies

Donna Patricia Drynan, University of British Columbioa

Donna Drynan, M.Ed., OT(C)

Occupational Therapist
Senior Instructor and Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
Dept of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy
Faculty of Medicine, UBC
T325-2211 Wesbrook Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 2B5
donna.drynan@ubc.ca | www.osot.ubc.ca

Leanne M. Currie, University of British Columbia

Associate Professor
University of British Columbia, Faculty of Applied Science School of Nursing
T201-2211 Wesbrook Mall
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T2B5


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2009) ‘Occupational therapy fieldwork education: Value and purpose’. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63, 821–822. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.63.6.821

Bonello, M. (2001) ‘Perceptions of fieldwork education in Malta: Challenges and opportunities’. Occupational Therapy International, 8 (1), 17–33 https://doi.org/10.1002/oti.129

CAOT (Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists) (2012) Association of Canadian Occupational Therapy University Programs & Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists Position Statement: Professional responsibility in fieldwork education in occupational therapy. [online] available from https://www.caot.ca/pdfs/positionstate/fieldwork%20education%20%20Position%20Statement%20Final%202012.pdf [19 July 2016]

CIHI (Canadian Institute for Health Information) (2013) Occupational Therapist Database Manual, Version 3.0 [online] Available from https://www.cihi.ca/en/otdb_dd_v2_en.pdf [20 July 2016]

Christie, B.A., Joyce, P.C., and Moeller, P.L. (1985) ‘Fieldwork experience, Part I: Impact on practice preference’. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 39 (10), 671–674 https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.39.10.671

Currie, L.M., Wolff, A.C., Mickelson, G., and Chamberlin, C. (2015). Placements for Learners: Assessing Capacity and Effectiveness of Clinical Sites (PLACES) - Final Report. Prepared for the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. Vancouver, BC. [online] Available from http://www.msfhr.org/placements-learners-assessing-capacity-and-effectiveness-clinical-sites-places-study [16 May 2016]

Dillman, D.A., Smyth, J.D., and Christian, L.M. (2014) Internet, Mail and Mixed-mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method. 4th edn. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley

Ford, K., Courtney-Pratt, H., Marlow, A., Cooper, J., Williams, D., and Mason, R. (2016) ‘Quality clinical placements: The perspectives of undergraduate nursing students and their supervising nurses’. Nurse Education Today, 37, 97–102 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nedt.2015.11.013

Hall, M., McFarlane, L.-A., and Mulholland, S. (2012) ‘Positive clinical placements: Perspectives of students and clinical educators in rehabilitation medicine’. International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, 19 (10), 549–556 https://doi.org/10.12968/ijtr.2012.19.10.549

Hummell, J. (1997) ‘Effective fieldwork supervision: Occupational therapy student perspectives’. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 44 (4), 147–157 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1630.1997.tb00769.x

Kirke, P., Layton, N., and Sim, J. (2007) ‘Informing fieldwork design: Key elements to quality in fieldwork education for undergraduate occupational therapy students’. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 54 (s1), S13–S22 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1630.2007.00696.x

Mulholland, S., Derdall, M., and Roy, B. (2006). ‘The student’s perspective on what makes an exceptional practice placement educator’. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69 (12), 567–571 https://doi.org/10.1177/030802260606901206

Mulholland, S. and Hall, M. (2013) ‘The influence of environment on the fieldwork experience: Exploring interprofessional student perspectives’. Work: A Journal of Prevention Assessment & Rehabilitation, 44 (3), 345–354 doi:10.3233/WOR-121511

Rodger, S., Fitzgerald, C., Davila, W., Millar, F., and Allison, H. (2011) ‘What makes a quality occupational therapy practice placement? Students' and practice educators' perspectives’. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 58 (3), 195–202 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1630.2010.00903.x

Skaalvik, M.W., Normann, H.K., and Henriksen, N. (2011) ‘Clinical learning environment and supervision: Experiences of Norwegian nursing students – a questionnaire survey’. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 20 (15–16), 2294–2304 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2702.2011.03727.x

Sloggett, K., Kim, N., and Cameron, D. (2003) ‘Private practice: Benefits, barriers and strategies of providing fieldwork placements’. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 70 (1), 42–50 https://doi.org/10.1177/000841740307000106

Taylor, C., Angel, L., Nyanga, L., and Dickson, C. (2016) ‘The process and challenges of obtaining and sustaining clinical placements for nursing and allied health students’. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 26 (19–20), 3099–3110 https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.13658

Thomas, Y., Dickson, D., Broadbridge, J., Hopper, L., Hawkins, R., Edwards, A., and McBryde, C. (2007) ‘Benefits and challenges of supervising occupational therapy fieldwork students: Supervisors’ perspectives’. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 54 (s1), S2–S12 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1630.2007.00694.x

Thomson, R., Docherty, A., and Duffy, R. (2017) ‘Nursing students’ experiences of mentorship in their final placement’. British Journal of Nursing, 26 (9), 514–521 https://doi.org/10.12968/bjon.2017.26.9.514

WFOT (World Federation of Occupational Therapists) (2016) Minimum Standards for the Education of Occupational Therapists. Available from http://www.wfot.org/Store/tabid/61/CategoryID/1/ProductID/55/Default.aspx [1 August 2017]




How to Cite

Drynan, D. P., Turnbull , J. A. ., & Currie, L. M. (2018). Evaluation of the Quality of Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Experiences. International Journal of Practice-Based Learning in Health and Social Care, 6(2), 48–63. https://doi.org/10.18552/ijpblhsc.v6i2.415