Ace Your First Week of Field Work

Starting any Fieldwork II experience is stressful. Whether it’s your first or your second, there’s always a sense of apprehension about what exactly to expect, and how to make a good impression during that crucial first week. Yet even in the midst of feeling overwhelmed by the constant stream of new information coming your way, there are steps you can take to make sure that the first week goes as smoothly as possible. Here are some tips to help you out.

  • Overdress: Your supervisor may be wearing jeans and a t-shirt when you go in for your first visit, but that doesn’t mean you should, at least not for the first couple of weeks. Unless otherwise specified, aim for business casual, such as trousers or dark jeans with a nice top and clean shoes. As a student, you’ll likely be held to higher standards than those working there full-time. It’s better to err on the side of caution until you really get a feel for the work environment.

 

  • Arrive 10 minutes early: This should go without saying, but even if your placement is relaxed, and your supervisor walks through the door at 8:29 before treating at 8:30, taking the initiative to show up early and prepare for the day ahead speaks volumes without you even saying anything.

 

  • Leave 10 minutes late: Stay long enough to finish up your notes and close out your work day.  Lenient supervisors who support a work-life balance exist, but taking a few extra minutes to wrap things up even if you are given the go-ahead to leave early shows your commitment. Staying an extra 10, 20 or even 30 minutes likely won’t greatly impact your life, but it can do wonders for your future career.

 

  • Educate yourself about the facility and the staff: You aren’t there just to make a lasting impression on your patients and supervisor, you’re also there to learn from and collaborate with other members of the care team. Take the time to read their bios on the facility’s website, and go out of your way to talk about any interesting certifications or accolades they have. It’ll show that you’re there for more than a grade and a checkmark on your academic profile.

 

  • Stay engaged, even while observing: The first week is typically spent getting a feel for the facility and how things are run. However, it’s easy to look like you’re paying attention while your mind wanders. Be fully present and ask questions of your supervisors or patients as appropriate throughout the process. It’ll show that you have genuine interest in what’s going on, and will help you get a head start on learning more about those you’ll be working with.

 

  • Don’t stress out too much: I know, it’s way easier said than done, but its really, really hard to fail your fieldwork in the first week, especially if you approach it with professionalism. Enjoy the experience, take time to speak with those around you, and truly get a feel for the space before the expectations are increased. While the constant influx of information can feel overwhelming at times, you aren’t expected to learn everything the first time through. Remember, this is an experience. You’re there to learn and make mistakes and expand on the content you studied in school. Take it as that.

~Shannon Corcoran, OTR