Why should you be a fieldwork educator?
Many of you may already be fieldwork educators, and others are considering the idea. There are many reasons to become a fieldwork educator. One argument is that as OTs and OTAs, it is our professional responsibility. To become an OT or OTA, we needed to have several fieldwork experiences and people have mentored us. It's a way of giving back to the profession and providing training to the next generation. You may feel very passionate about what you do and you want to be able to pass that along to the next generation.
Also, students bring a lot of enthusiasm to the field, and they are excited to learn about occupational therapy. They bring a sense of renewed optimism to us as practitioners. In addition, they have fresh perspectives, which can make us stop and think. We get so in tune with our daily routines, sometimes we forget why we joined the occupational therapy field in the first place. Seeing the profession through a student’s eyes can energize and motivate us in new ways.
Additionally, students can bring us access to the latest research. When you're practicing in the field, you may not be affiliated with an educational university. You may not have access to the newest journals, but your students do. You can put them to work, ask them to research topics using the library database. These students are learning new things in their classes, as well. It is definitely an opportunity for you to have professional development. You will learn and grow as a fieldwork educator in many ways – probably in more ways than you realize.
We also tell all of our students that their fieldwork could be considered as the longest job interview of their life. They are being watched and observed by the fieldwork educator and by the facility. It is a job interview, of sorts. As a fieldwork educator, you can be on the lookout for students who you may want to hire once they graduate. We also tell students to be on their best behavior and to realize that everything they do is part of being a professional from day one. Additionally, some states offer continuing education credits for being a fieldwork educator. I would encourage you to check with each of your licensing states and see what kind of CEUs you can earn, simply by being a fieldwork educator.
In 2015, Evenson et al. conducted a nationwide survey of OT and OTA fieldwork educators across the United States. As a result of their research, they determined the top five reasons to become a fieldwork educator. According to their interviews, being a fieldwork educator provides:
- An opportunity to update practice, keep current, and apply new ideas, research, or theories
- Personal satisfaction: As practitioners, we receive personal satisfaction to be able to help others. Helping a student is different than helping a client, but it also can give you that personal satisfaction.
- An opportunity to give back to their university (their alma mater) or to the profession in general
- An opportunity to develop and hone clinical reasoning skills
- An opportunity to develop supervision skills: As OTAs, we may or may not be supervising other rehab techs, or have other opportunities to supervise. Some of you may be rehab directors and you have that supervisory opportunity as part of your job. To start gaining those skills and learning those skills, try taking a Level one fieldwork student.