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Penn State DuBois OTA program stays fresh through professional interaction

OTA Fieldwork
1/4/2006 —

DuBois - Hands-on experience with patients in both hospital and non-traditional settings, called fieldwork, is a key component within the Penn State DuBois Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program. A recent fieldwork educators' meeting assured that in the clinical setting, both Penn State students and real-life practitioners learn the newest applications in the field.

According to Margaret J. Pendzick, fieldwork coordinator for the OTA program, students complete initial fieldwork which consists of observing practitioners in various clinical settings.  Upon completion of all academic classes and observations, students complete two hands-on fieldwork experiences where they work under supervision, usually at a local hospital or nursing home. 

At the other end of this exchange, participating site practitioners, including occupational therapists and OTAs from DuBois Regional Medical Center, Elk Regional Health Center, Clearfield Hospital, Charles Cole Memorial Hospital, Jefferson Manor and Armstrong Memorial Hospital, attend a free fieldwork educators' meeting, under Penn State DuBois' continuing education program. Melanie Ferraro of Brookville, a certified and registered occupational therapist at Clearfield Hospital, attended.

"I think it's good to keep a fresh perspective of what our students are learning. The educators at Penn State DuBois help to bring some current information to our programs. We can tend to get caught up in the day-to-day realm of what we do, and they bring that education back to us," Ferraro said.

Ferraro said she was also thankful for the opportunity to get together with other fieldwork educators to compare notes.

"There are some things I needed to research and it was nice to be able to bounce that off others. Sometimes that even happened at lunch and not necessarily in the structured setting," Ferraro said. "In your day-to-day practice you don’t get to talk to people from the same discipline but from other facilities."

According to Pendzick, students can choose any number of clinical settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, school systems, community agencies or mental health facilities. Upon successful completion of fieldwork experiences, students graduate with an associate degree in occupational therapy and are eligible to take the national exam and apply for state licensure.

Fieldwork educators studied updated guidelines in traditional and non-traditional settings that assess client self-care, such as personal hygiene, dressing and eating; and home adaptations, including specialized kitchen equipment and adaptive positioning of household items to help clients maintain their independence. Students are challenged by the fieldwork educators to think creatively in designing innovative and creative occupation- and home-based interventions, Pendzick said.

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For more information, contact Erin Chorney, Public Information Officer at Penn State DuBois, at 814-375-4776 or by email at edc11@psu.edu


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