Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Education

Fieldwork is an integral part of the professional education of occupational therapists. During fieldwork, you’ll have the opportunity to apply and integrate academic learning. You’ll be supervised by fieldwork educators who are occupational therapists or other professionals, to gain hands-on experience in a variety of settings. Examples of fieldwork sites include hospitals, outpatient clinics, community-based health programs, and schools. 

Fieldwork Sequence

Level I Fieldwork

Level I fieldwork is an opportunity for you to practice observation skills, professional behaviors, and application of occupational therapy theory. This includes on-site experience at clinical sites and experiential learning in a variety of practice settings. Level I fieldwork occurs during the summer between the first and second year.

Level II Fieldwork

Level II fieldwork is designed to transition you to the full responsibilities of an entry-level occupational therapist. Following two years of didactic coursework, you’ll complete two 12-week rotations at two different types of practice settings.

Academic Fieldwork Coordinators

The academic fieldwork coordinators (AFWC) are the faculty members responsible for the successful implementation of fieldwork education. The AFWCs work directly with you and are the University’s direct contact for fieldwork educators at clinical sites.

Domenique Embrey OTD MS OTR/L
Level II fieldwork coordinator and lead
510-879-9200 x7520

Liz Kleine, MOT, OTR/L
Academic Fieldwork Coordinator for Level I
510-879-9200 x7519

Fieldwork educators are professionals who directly supervise students on-site during fieldwork. The SMU occupational therapy program has relationships with an extensive network of fieldwork educators.

If you are a professional interested in becoming a fieldwork educator, please contact us at otfieldwork@samuelmerritt.edu

There are many benefits to becoming a fieldwork educator including:

  • Playing a vital role in preparing the next generation of occupational therapists
  • Enhancing your professionalism and clinical skills
  • Gaining exposure to innovations through student research and projects
  • Earning professional development units (PDUs).  

Level I Fieldwork
Students can be supervised by an occupational therapist, occupational therapy assistant, or “an otherwise regulated professional” such as a social worker, recreation therapist, or a teacher, for example. 
Level II Fieldwork
Level II fieldwork educators are licensed occupational therapists who have at least one year of full-time practice experience. 

Fieldwork educators earn professional development units (PDUs) for both state licensure and NBCOT certification renewal. For more information, please refer to the guidelines provided by the California Board of Occupational Therapy and NBCOT.

•    AOTA's Fieldwork page offers resources to support fieldwork educators in establishing a new fieldwork program. 
•    AOTA's Fieldwork Educators Certificate Workshop 
•    AOTA Self-Assessment Tool for Fieldwork Educator Competency encourages self-reflection and helps fieldwork educators identify competency areas for improvement. Research supporting the use of this tool is provided.
•    The Fieldwork Experience Assessment Tool (FEAT) is a tool to promote communication and problem solving between the student and the fieldwork educator.

The California Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Council (CAOTFC) is a consortium of academic fieldwork coordinators from occupational therapy programs within the state of California. The CAOTFC website has valuable information for fieldwork educators.

The CAOTFC also organizes an annual conference for fieldwork educators. This annual meeting is hosted at Northern California schools on a rotating basis andprovides a forum for communication about student preparation, educational program changes, and fieldwork educators’ needs. Free PDUs are offered for this free meeting. Please visit https://www.caotfc.org/ or contact otfieldwork@samuelmerritt.edu for more information.

The Academic Fieldwork Coordinators will begin meeting with each class of students during the first semester of the program and periodically throughout in order to prepare students for fieldwork. These occasional meetings are usually held during a lunch break. The AFWCs offer open communication throughout the program to answer students’ questions and collaborate for successful fieldwork experience. 

Clinical sites will have requirements for students to meet before they can attend a fieldwork placement. Below is an overview of requirements that are commonly requested by fieldwork sites. Those with an asterisk are usually required. Site-specific requirements vary. Your Academic Fieldwork Coordinator will provide you instruction and guidance regarding meeting these requirements.

  • Physical and updated immunizations*
  • TB test*
  • Bloodborne pathogens certification*
  • HIPAA certification*
  • Criminal background check 
  • Drug screening
  • Flu shot
  • N95 mask

To meet this requirement, you will need to search online, choose, and a complete a bloodborne pathogens self-study course. The course should cover bloodborne pathogens for healthcare providers and provide a certification upon successful completion of the course. The cost for the course is approximately $20, which you will pay when you register for the course. At the conclusion of the course, you must pass an exam in order to receive a certificate of completion. Please keep a certificate for your own records and upload a copy to Exxat. Your AFWC will provide you with additional information.

The Level I Academic Fieldwork Coordinator will provide a self-study module during the spring semester of the first year, which you will complete in order to obtain the HIPAA certification and sign a Confidentiality Agreement. Please save a copy of the Confidentiality Agreement for your records and also upload it to Exxat. Plan to bring a copy of the Confidentiality Agreement to your fieldwork sites.

Some fieldwork sites may require a criminal background check prior to starting fieldwork. If you are aware of any potential difficulties passing a criminal background check, please notify the Academic Fieldwork Coordinators immediately. 

Accessing Your Previous Criminal Background Check Report
All students completed a confidential criminal background check upon admission to SMU. In some instances, this background check may be sufficient for fulfilling a fieldwork site's requirements. Go to the Student Services page for current instructions on how to retrieve a previous background screen or order a new one.

Completing a Live Scan
A fieldwork site may require a more extensive background check than the one you completed upon admission to SMU. For example, some sites may require the Live Scan method and will provide you with the necessary forms. Your AFWC can answer your questions about this type of background check.

Some sites will require a drug screen. If required to complete a drug screening, you must find out from the fieldwork site what type of screening is required (ie 7 panel vs. 10 panel) and whether the screening is completed by the fieldwork site or by you. If acceptable to the fieldwork site, you can schedule your own drug screenings by following the instructions on the Student Services page.