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Professional Behaviour of Students while on Fieldwork

Within the occupational therapy program, students are involved in fieldwork practice under the supervision of a registered occupational therapist. Students should consider that expectations of professional interactions, dress code and professional behaviours may be distinct in each organization. Although general guidelines are provided in this manual, norms may be unique in each program or organization. Students will practice within the guidelines of the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario and are required to follow the ‘OT Student Code of Conduct and Guidelines’ as documented in the OS&OT Graduate Student Handbook.

Students will recognize that their clinical work may put them in positions of power with clients. Students must not take advantage of this position to advocate for their personal gain, values or beliefs.

Students will at all times adhere to the standards of ethical behaviour for the profession of Occupational Therapy (please refer to the CAOT and COTO Codes of Ethics) and their professional activities will be characterized by honesty, integrity, conscientiousness and reliability.

COTO Documents Pertaining to Fieldwork Education

The College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO) is the provincial regulatory body for occupational therapists practicing in Ontario. COTO exists to protect the public interest by setting standards for practice and supporting registered occupational therapists to provide safe, effective, and ethical care. Please see for further information. Student occupational therapists, under the supervision of registered occupational therapists must adhere to COTO standards and the code of ethics.

COTO Code of Ethics

The COTO Code of Ethics outlines expectations for ethical occupational therapy practice within any OT practice context or domain.

COTO Standards for the Supervision of Students

COTO has developed standards to outline minimum expectations and parameters to guide occupational therapists in their fieldwork teaching role. Fieldwork supervision is seen by COTO as a component of an occupational therapist’s responsibility and commitment to the profession. 

University of Toronto Documents Pertaining to Fieldwork Education

The University of Toronto has various documents that pertain to MScOT fieldwork education. Student occupational therapists are expected to adhere to all standards and requirements within these documents. 

Standards of Professional Practice Behaviour for all Health Professional Students. Please follow link below for this document.

The first paragraph of this document reads:

“Health professional students engage in a variety of activities with patients/clients under supervision and as part of their academic programs. During this training, the University, training sites, and society more generally expect our health professional students to adhere to appropriate standards of behaviour and ethical values. All health profession students accept that their profession demands integrity, exemplary behaviour, dedication to the search for truth, and service to humanity in the pursuit of their education and the exercise of their profession.”

Students must read and adhere to these standards during all fieldwork courses.

Protection of Digital Personal Health Information

The University of Toronto and its affiliated teaching hospitals have written an important document pertaining to the protection of digital personal health information. All students within the Faculty of Medicine must read and uphold the standards and abide by the procedures set forth in this document entitled, “Statement on Protection of Digital Personal Health Information”.  In preparation for fieldwork, all students must complete an online module on protection of personal health information. 

Please note important points below:

  • Students must never store any confidential data on their own computers or storage devices unless they have been given permission from their preceptor and doing so does not violate privacy and confidentiality laws and organizational policies. This includes any patient/client files and also documentation templates. Documentation templates are the property of the organization and so permission must be obtained in order to save any templates or resources even if they are completely void of any patient information.

  • At no point should students be doing documentation at home or on their personal phones or computers. De-identification of personal information is very complex and even if the patient name, diagnosis, and identifier (e.g. hospital/medical record number) have been removed, the date of an assessment and the hospital unit may still be sources of identification.

  • If students are on a community placement and are transporting files, they must carefully follow organizational policy and law regarding paper and electronic patient files. The only safe way to transport patient information is for it to be both encrypted and password protected (on laptop or USB key). It is not enough just to password protect electronic patient files when transporting them on community visits. Paper files would have to be locked in a car trunk (never just left in a locked car on the seat) or kept with the student at all times.

  • Students are also reminded to never access the electronic or paper file of a client that is not on their caseload.

  • Breaches of privacy and confidentiality are grounds for severe academic penalties including possible dismissal from the MScOT program.

Cell Phones and Other Electronic Media

Students must adhere to the following:

  • Cell phones must be turned off and stored while participating in fieldwork placement unless instructed otherwise by preceptor. In the case of an emergency, the student should request permission from his/her preceptor and/or clients to use the cell phone. Personal texting, messaging, or calling is not allowed during fieldwork hours unless otherwise instructed by preceptor.

  • Other personal electronic devices are also not to be used during fieldwork placements without approval of the preceptor.

  • Hospital computers are to be used for fieldwork purposes only. Personal emails are discouraged during fieldwork time and only with approval of the preceptor. Social networking sites should be used for program purposes only while on fieldwork placements.

  • All clinically related information, including information about clients, families, team members, and events that happen on placement are confidential and should not be shared beyond the circle of care. In order to protect and respect clients and our community partners, personal blogging or posting on social media of clinically related information is strictly prohibited.

Students are directed to the COTO Resource, 'Use of Social Media' (see below) for further instruction on social media and professional behavior. Students are also directed to the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine ‘Guidelines for Appropriate Use of the Internet, Electronic Networking and Other Media.’


Fieldwork hours are calculated based on a 37.5 hour work week (e.g. 8:30 to 4:30 p.m.). Students are expected to attend all fieldwork practice hours in the program. CAOT Standards for OT Education state that in order to graduate from an accredited program in Occupational Therapy, each student must successfully complete a minimum of 1000 hours of fieldwork practice. Students will not ask for shortened work days to accommodate personal needs unless they have official accommodations communicated to the fieldwork instructor from the University of Toronto Accessibility Services. All non-emergency doctor/dentist appointments, job commitments, or personal travel plans should be arranged to avoid conflicting with fieldwork placements.

Please see link below for further information regarding fieldwork attendance.

Dress Code

Students, as members of the health care team, should project a professional image to clients, their families, team members and the general public. This helps clients to relate to the student as a professional-in-training.

Students are expected to comply with the dress code of the facility to which they are assigned with regard to professional image and safety concerns. Specific dress code information is available for each site through the clinical facility information on the Quercus Fieldwork website.

Please see link below for further information regarding student attendance on fieldwork including scientific conferences.

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