Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Profile of 1 year of fieldwork experiences for undergraduate occupational therapy students from a large regional Australian university

Lynette Mackenzie A C and Gjyn O’Toole B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Discipline of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney, 75 East Street, Lidcombe, NSW 2141, Australia.

B Occupational Therapy, School of Health Sciences, University of Newcastle, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia. Email: Gjyn.OToole@newcastle.edu.au

C Corresponding author. Email: Lynette.Mackenzie@sydney.edu.au

Australian Health Review 41(5) 582-589 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16006
Submitted: 9 January 2016  Accepted: 27 August 2016   Published: 4 November 2016

Abstract

Objective Fieldwork experience is a significant component of many health professional education programs and affects future practice for graduates. The present study used self-reported student data to produce a profile of undergraduate student placement experiences.

Methods Cross-sectional surveys exploring placement location, setting and client types, models of supervision, interventions and financial costs were completed by students following each placement. Data were analysed using descriptive analysis.

Results Placements were predominantly conducted outside capital cities (69.8%; n = 184), with 25.8% (n = 68) in rural settings. Students experienced predominantly public health in-patient settings and community settings, with only 15% experiencing private settings.

Conclusions The placement profile of undergraduate occupational therapy students appeared to be consistent with workforce reports on occupational therapy professional practice.

What is known about the topic? Fieldwork experienced by health professional students is critical to preparing new graduates for practice. Although the World Federation of Occupational Therapy provides guidance on what is required for occupational therapy fieldwork experience, little is known about what students actually experience during their fieldwork placements.

What does this paper add? The present study is the first to document the range of fieldwork experienced by occupational therapy students in one program over 1 year, and provides the basis for comparison with other occupational therapy programs, as well as other disciplines nationally and internationally.

What are the implications for practitioners? Occupational therapy students experienced few opportunities in private practice or speciality services, and had mostly one-on-one supervision. To provide a future workforce that is able to address the changing health system, it is vital that students are exposed to a range of fieldwork experiences and supervision styles that replicate the demands of future practice.

Additional keywords: clinical placement, clinical practice, competence, professional placement.


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