OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY INTERNATIONAL FIELDWORK: Exploration of Student Perceptions and Implications for Planning


Increasing numbers of Canadian occupational therapy (OT) students participate in fieldwork in low and middle-income countries during professional training. There are a few studies investigating the perceived benefits and challenges of international fieldwork (IFW).

The aim of this study was to better understand the learning experiences during international fieldwork from students’ perspectives. 11 practicing occupational therapists who had completed an IFW experience as a part of their required professional education were interviewed, and data were analyzed using an interpretive description methodology. Collectively, participants had completed their OT training at four Canadian universities and undertaken IFW in eight different countries.

Four themes were identified: living in a new cultural context; learning about different approaches and contexts of occupational therapy practice; supports and resources for carrying out IFW; and perceptions of how IFW affects students, clients, institutions, and host communities.

The findings of this study can inform the best practice preparation and planning for IFW by students, university programs, and host institutions so that learning and sustainability can be optimized.

This study was conducted with a small group of participants. More research is needed on the perspectives of partners in IFW from a sustainability and resource viewpoint. Moreover, a comparison of different student debriefing strategies would be useful in informing best practices.



Erin A. Douglas l  McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Virginie Tousignant l Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, Canada

Maria Harewood l  Private rehabilitation clinic, Montreal, Canada

Caroline Storr l  School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Matthew Hunt l  School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

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