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Q&A: OT Student Reflects on 'Real World' Field Work Experience

By Lauren Whetzel-Siburkis

Daniel FichterOccupational therapy student Daniel Fichter DrOT'15 gained practical job experience through an internship with the Ralston House in West Philadelphia. Fichter — along with five other occupational therapy students from USciences — spent the fall semester working in Ralston’s outpatient clinic one day a week, where they provided seniors with the support and services necessary for them to live with the best quality of life.

“This type of fieldwork provided us with a platform to analyze the role of occupational therapy within a community setting,” said Fichter. “Not only did we gain experience working directly with individuals, but we were also able to evaluate and intervene with a community group and aging population.”

Here’s what he had to say about the experience...

When did you start your work at Ralston House?

The P4 Occupational Therapy Class, consisting of Annie Chia DrOT’16, Carolyn Edwards DrOT’16, Palak Sutaria DrOT’16, Amanda Scull DrOT’16, Max Zilberman DrOT’16 and myself, began our placement at Ralston House at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester. We worked in the outpatient clinic once per week for 10 weeks. One half of the class was present in the morning and one half in the afternoon. 

What are your primary duties as an occupational therapy student at Ralston House?

As a class, we are responsible for consulting with clients and their families or caregivers as appropriate. We complete brief occupation-based assessments to better understand the challenges or concerns with the client's everyday life. We then provide education and work with the client's to address any current or prospective challenges. We are additionally responsible for educating the Ralston House staff on how occupational therapy can play a distinct role in an outpatient mental health setting. It is our responsible to integrate occupational therapy into the current structure. We completed needs assessments, which led to more directed education and to two program proposals that will be presented to the Ralston House director and staff for implementation. 

How does this type of field work benefit your occupational therapy education at USciences?

This type of fieldwork provides students with a platform to analyze the role of occupational therapy within a community setting. The Occupational Therapy Practice Framework states that services can be provided to persons, groups and populations. We have experience working with individuals and, through our time at Ralston House, get to evaluate and intervene with a community group and aging population. 

What are your career plans after graduation?

Post-graduation, I plan to identify an occupational therapy job that balances clinical and community roles. I understand that I have varied interests, but know that I would like to develop a strong foundation in clinical practice while exploring novel roles for occupational therapy within the community. 

What is the best advice you have for occupational therapy students?

Get involved and experience as much as you can. Go to conferences, sign up for leadership courses and participate in campus organizations. The more you experience, the clearer view you will have of your specific role within the field of occupational therapy. Also, it's not easy to be an occupational therapy student and we need to show others that we are capable of. Take pride in what you do.  

The Department of Occupational Therapy at USciences continues grow, and most recently bolstered its offerings by launching an online, post-professional doctorate in occupational therapy program to deliver flexible learning opportunities to individuals interested in continuing their education. USciences is one of six schools in the country with a direct-entry doctorate in occupational therapy program, in addition to offering a post-baccalaureate doctorate in occupational therapy and a master’s of occupational therapy degree.

Categories: News, Feature Story, Alumni, Profiles, Proven Everywhere, Academics, Samson College, Department of Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy