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Gianna Ciro: Fieldwork Experience Amidst The Height of COVID-19

Written by Gianna Ciro DrOT'21
Published on March 12, 2021

CiroIn April 2020, I was set to begin my fieldwork level II placement, less than one month after a national emergency was declared in the United States due to COVID-19. After hearing that my 21 classmates had their placements either cancelled or postponed, my fieldwork site coordinator informed me that the site was still opened during this time and if I would be willingly and comfortable to still complete the fieldwork rotation. At this point, I was the only one out of 21 students to have started on my original start date during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On the first day I learned that the employees had to wear a certain type of mask: thick cloth or N95. The thick cloth masks some days were extremely hard to breathe through, yet was my only choice besides wearing an N95. Throughout my 12 weeks at this site, I had experienced a couple COVID-19 scares. There were three clients who I just treated and were all getting tested for COVID-19. I was so anxious and was hoping for the best for everyone. 

Social distancing protocols were disregarded during the manual therapy part of the treatment sessions. Both the patients and therapists were required to wear masks at all times. It turned out that all three of those patients tested negative for COVID-19. I was so relieved for the patients and myself after seeing their names appear back into the schedule, since the clinic could not treat any of them until there was evidence of COVID-19 results. 

One of the key core values that I faced during this fieldwork rotation was perseverance. 

I had three supervisors at a specialized outpatient hand therapy setting and that was challenging during the weeks leading up until midterm (Week 6). Two of them were Certified Hand Therapists (CHTs) and the other supervisor specialized in Cancer Management and Neuro-Developmental Theory (NDT). One taught me to run treatment sessions and conduct evaluations on Telehealth. This experience opened my eyes to another OT service delivery model.  

Then, there were a few patients who left an impact. Establishing rapport with my patients during this time was essential in maintaining health, well-being, and quality of life. One of the patients stated to me one morning how I was his favorite student. He had been attending the clinic for about two years. He informed me that I am the most relatable student in how I always engaged in conversations with him while in treatment sessions. 

One of my other patients thought very highly of me due to being in the doctorate program. He knew the hard work and sacrifice it takes to obtain this degree. This patient always found the positives in everything and checked-in with myself and other therapists to see how we were holding up. He would do this every single time while being in the clinic. 

Lastly, the first evaluation I saw was a distal radius fracture S/P Open Reduction External Fixation (ExFix). He went that extra step and brought into the clinic one day his external fixator for me to look over. His reasoning was to help me learn more about the surgery he had undergone. 

During my last day of fieldwork, this same patient pulled me asideand gave me a gift basket saying, “I never thought of you once as a student, but a therapist. You helped me from the start and can’t thank you enough for that.”

I am honored to have completed my second level II fieldwork rotation amidst the height of COVID-19. Not too many OT students can say this. My supervisors, patients, staff, and my health were at risk the entire time. Yet, my supervisors, patients, and experiences have made it all worthwhile. 

Categories:  Department of Occupational TherapyStudentsOccupational TherapyCOVIDSamson College of Health Sciences