Currently, occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant students learn about the profession while assimilating classroom content with fieldwork experiences. Fieldwork traditionally has occurred in settings that follow a medical model, but now they can be as varying as community nonprofit organizations that serve persons with specific impairments or neighborhood organizations, such as food banks or homeless shelters. Wilma West (1968), a pioneer and visionary in the profession, reminded us of the importance of recognizing and responding to change. Because our world changes continuously, so must our vision of fieldwork placements to meet future client and population needs.
google_ad_section_end (name=s1) // no sitetune google_ad_section_start (name=s2 weight=.3) Grooming a New Generation of Practitioners
Occupational therapy students must be prepared to work with individuals as well as groups or whole populations. An ever-increasing demand for occupational therapy services, a limited number of practitioners joining the workforce annually, and the current occupational therapy workforce aging out are several reasons given for grooming a new generation of practitioners. As baby boomers enter Medicare, a shortage of occupational therapy practitioners is expected (A. Burkhart, personal communication, December 17, 2008).
At Quinnipiac University (Ham den, CT), preparation for occupational therapy students begins with a community service requirement of 20 hours during the sophomore year. This requirement can be completed in a variety of community venues by observing an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant in practice. In addition, as part of junior-level course work, students engage in service learning experiences in the community, including elementary school classrooms, local agricultural fairgrounds, health fairs, community centers, animal-assisted therapy sites, and a transitional drug rehabilitation program for women. These opportunities allow students not only to have first-hand experience working in the community with various population groups, but also to learn about differences among cultures and environments and many aspects that influence individuals in their everyday life.