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This article is the author's final published version in BMC Medical Education, Volume 24, Issue 1, 2024, Article number 384.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2024


BACKGROUND: Role-emerging settings - those where occupational therapy (OT) services have not traditionally been provided - are common sites for practice placements of entry-level occupational therapy students. A growing body of literature has attempted to determine the value and drawbacks of such practice placements on the professional preparedness of OT students with mixed findings. Benefits have been identified, including increased cultural understanding, advocacy, creativity, initiative, and problem-solving skills. However, OT students have been reported to perceive such placement as limiting their professional growth and preparedness to practice compared to traditional placements.

METHODS: A phenomenological study was conducted seeking the perceptions of OT students (n = 14) about their clinical placement at a role-emerging site. Recorded semi-structured interviews were conducted by trained interviewers within two weeks of the end of clinical placement. The recordings were transcribed verbatim and then coded using an iterative multi-coder inductive approach. Inter-coder agreement, reflectivity, and audit trail were maintained.

RESULTS: Three themes emerged from the analysis: (1) integrating independence and support, (2) becoming occupational therapists, and (3) filling a gap. These themes reflect students' positive perceptions of their role-emerging clinical placement. They felt that this placement allowed them to develop self-confidence and professional identity as occupational therapists and learn new skills while simultaneously filling a gap in services for clients. Most importantly, they felt that this placement prepared them for their future OT practice.

CONCLUSION: This finding and their resounding support of the experience suggest that OT students can perceive role-emerging placement as a solid foundation for clinical practice. Factors, included in this placement, that may have contributed to their experience include the level of support provided, time available for learning including space to make mistakes, and freedom from productivity and payor requirements.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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