Final year occupational therapy students' experience of supervision during community fieldwork practice
Fieldwork is seen to be an essential component in the curriculum of an undergraduate occupational therapy (OT) program through which students develop their professional behavior and apply theoretical education to clinical practice. Students in their final year of the undergraduate OT program at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) use the UWC Community Process as a guide to community fieldwork in community settings. This process follows a community development approach to allow students to focus on the needs of the community. The community fieldwork placement is compulsory for all final year OT students. The main aims of the placement are for students to develop their understanding of the role of an occupational therapist in a community setting and to enhance their understanding of the occupational nature of communities. This study focuses on final year UWC OT students' experiences of the supervision they received while following the steps of the Community Process as well as their perceptions of the relationship between their supervision and their learning about occupation based community practice. The aim of the study was to explore how the 2009 final year OT students experienced fieldwork supervision during their community fieldwork placement. The study followed an interpretivist paradigm with a qualitative research methodological approach and a phenomenological design. Purposeful sampling was used to select participants from the UWC OT department who undertook their community fieldwork placement in 2009. All the data utilized in this study was directly linked to the students' experiences of supervision during their learning of the Community Process. Therefore, the methods of data collection that were used included the students' daily reflective journals, their portfolio files and an evaluative focus group held at the end of the year 2009. All data was critically analyzed through a process of thematic analysis in order to meet the research objectives. The techniques of triangulation and a detailed description of the research process were employed to ensure trustworthiness of the study. The ethical principles of autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence as well as informed written consent were adhered to in the study. The findings of the study highlighted the emotions that the students experienced, the development of their professional judgement and the challenges and experiences they encountered in their personal and professional development. The findings further showed that the process of becoming a part of the community allowed the students to define their role as an OT in a community setting and to increase their understanding of community development in the context of their role within the community. The findings also emphasized the students' experiences with regards to various teaching and learning techniques and approaches used within the supervision of their community fieldwork placement. The significance of this study lies in its contribution to the generation of an understanding of how supervision influences students' understanding of occupation-based community practice in occupational therapy.