Learning & Fieldwork in 2020

Happy blogmas day 4! Today I am reflecting on what this past year has been like as an OT student, and especially as a fieldwork student. We all know that this year has not been what we expected. In March, my school closed and moved to virtual learning for the remainder of the semester due to Covid-19. While I much prefer learning in a classroom rather than over Zoom, I am really grateful that my professors pivoted so quickly and provided me and my classmates with a great end to the spring semester.

Everything shared here is my personal experience and reflection. Student experiences during this time vary greatly by the type of setting, location, etc. I also understand that many students lost placements due to the pandemic, causing a great deal of stress and uncertainty. I was extremely lucky that neither of my placements were cancelled. I hope that everyone reading this is healthy, safe, and able to continue their journey to becoming a great OT. The views expressed here are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the MGH Institute of Health Professions.

Virtual Learning

My professors did a really great job of making our classes virtual so quickly last spring. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked out just fine. On the bright side, I was able to have a telehealth session with my client from the school-based elective that I was taking, which helped to prepare me for providing telehealth services during fieldwork over the summer! Some things that were challenging for me were:

  • Staring at a computer screen all day long – Blue light glasses to the rescue!
  • Managing my time when time seemed to be stopped
  • Focusing on homework while quarantining in a small apartment with my boyfriend – He loves to distract me!
  • Getting out of bed for class – Not going to lie, there were times when I got out of bed at 8:55 for a 9am class and quickly threw on gym clothes and put my hair in a bun.
  • Not Saying Goodbye – I was really sad when I got the news that my school pivoted to virtual learning. It was my last semester of classes, and we did not get a chance to say a proper farewell to our classmates and professors before embarking on our fieldwork journeys. I am hopeful that someday we will be able to see each other as a large group one more time.

My heart goes out to all students STILL doing virtual learning. I know that it is the safest option right now, but there is nothing quite like learning in person. OT is such a hands-on profession, and I personally learn best in person. I’m sure it’s hard, but know that you will still be a great OT one day. And, hopefully we can go back to normal soon!

Being a Fieldwork Student During Covid-19

As mentioned before, I am so lucky that I was able to do fieldwork as planned with no cancellations. However, the pandemic definitely made some changes to my placements. Here’s what was different:

  • Telehealth – While I would have preferred to see all of my clients in person, I feel lucky that I was able to learn how to provide telehealth services! I think that this will be a benefit to me in the future when I look for a job and if OTs continue to offer telehealth services even after the pandemic ends. It is a great skill to have!
  • Cleaning Procedures – Cleaning is obviously much more intense now. We have to clean everything, so you have to be mindful of what materials you use.
  • Health Protocols – At the outpatient clinic, we took everyone’s temperature and they had to sign a form stating that they had not experienced symptoms or been in contact with anyone who tested positive for Covid-19. In the school system, we have to sign a virtual waiver everyday before going into the building. The school has a Covid Response Team who does contact tracing and monitors health and safety in the schools. If someone has symptoms, they must get a Covid test and stay home until cleared by the Covid Response Team.
  • 6 Feet – As an OT, consistently maintaining a distance of 6 feet between you and your clients is nearly impossible. We do hand-over-hand, prompting, ADLs, iADLs, and it lowers your ability to build rapport with kiddos. We have used a plastic divider a few times during assessments with older students, but it’s not ideal.
  • Stress – My main takeaway of being a fieldwork student during this time is that it just causes an extra layer of stress. There is more to think about, logistics and protocols to follow, cleaning procedures to complete, and a nervousness being in a clinic/school and in contact with so many people. However, I am immensely grateful to just have the opportunity to do fieldwork right now. It has to be so stressful for clinical instructors to take on a student right now, so a huge THANK YOU to all of the CI’s out there teaching students. You rock!

To other OT students out there, what has been hard for you during this time?

Ready for telehealth services!

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