Practice Education is an essential component of the undergraduate program, and provides opportunities for the integration of theory and practice, necessary for graduation and registration as an Occupational Therapist. Within the complexity of the placement setting, students can develop the competencies required for professional practice such as professional communication, self-management and the effective application of occupational therapy interventions with clients. In working with clients, students begin to develop professional reasoning skills and self-reflective practice. Throughout undergraduate training in Occupational Therapy, students are required to complete 1000 hours of practice education, to meet graduation requirements and accreditation standards with the World Federation of Occupational Therapists.
Our aim at James Cook University (JCU) is to provide students with a wide range of practice experiences to prepare them for the diversity of professional roles in the community. Placements occur in a range of facilities and organisations including Queensland Health, Education Queensland, Department of Communities, Department of Human Services, other government agencies, and various non-government and private organisations. We use a range of innovative placement models and supervision structures to ensure students and supervising clinicians both gain valuable experiences in practice education within resources available.
Half way through the first year of the OT course, students complete their first block placement – full-time, for one week with an Occupational Therapist in a ‘real life’ setting. This experience enables students to observe and participate in occupational therapy practice, apply and integrate knowledge gained from the first six months of learning, and practise professional skills and behaviours, all under the supervision of a qualified Occupational Therapist. Students are required to be available during the semester break in June/ July to complete this placement, usually in their preferred geographical location. Throughout the first two and a half years of the course, students also participate in a variety of community placements as part of their assessment requirements for particular subjects during regular study periods.
In the third and fourth years of the OT course, all JCU OT students are required to complete at least three block placements from seven to ten weeks duration. At least one of these placements should be in a rural or remote geographical location and at least one placement in a mental health or psychosocial setting. Placements may be located away from Townsville and may involve travel and additional accommodation and living expenses, which are the responsibility and at the expense of the student. The northern region of Queensland is prioritised for placement locations. However, we endeavour to assist by allocating students to their preferred regions where possible, allocating offers early and following up requests for accommodation.
Placement opportunities are diverse and enable some students to gain experience overseas. Previous students have travelled to Vietnam, China, Nepal, Tonga, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada, United States of America and South Africa, to complete long block placements in their third or fourth year of study.
Students have a responsibility to ensure they are prepared and complete a number of mandatory Pre-Placement requirements such as Hepatitis B vaccination, First Aid/ CPR training, Working with Children application (Blue Card), and Queensland Health Orientation. Criminal history checks may be requested by some organisations, and students will be notified when this is required as they are allocated their placement, and the procedure to follow.