Clinical Education

Welcome to McMaster University Occupational Therapy Clinical Education. The School of Rehabilitation Science and the Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSc (OT) Clinical Education would like to acknowledge the facilities, clinical education coordinators and preceptors who support student occupational therapists. Learning opportunities and experiences in Clinical Education placement courses are essential components in the occupational therapy curriculum and allow students to gain the appropriate skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours required for professional practice. We hope that these web pages are helpful to students and preceptors alike. If you have any suggestions for content please let us know.

What is Professional Practica/Clinical Placement?
Who arranges clinical placements?
Can students ask to be assigned to specific placements?
Can clinical partners request specific students?
Where can students be assigned to clinical placements?
Do I need a vehicle / my own transit to complete this program?
Placement Learning Outcomes   Timing
OTP I This course is a comprised of a four-week full-time fieldwork opportunity. Students will apply occupational therapy theories and models learned in class to the placement setting. Students will establish therapeutic relationships and begin to engage in different parts of the practice process as negotiated with preceptors. Preceptors will prompt students’ clinical reasoning by asking questions and students will initiate identification of strengths and weaknesses in personal performance and will be able to give, receive, and integrate general feedback. 4 weeks
November to December
OTP II This course is comprised of an eight-week full time fieldwork opportunity.  Students will engage in all parts of the practice process, but not necessarily with the same client from beginning to end. The preceptor will facilitate problem solving in collaboration with students. Students will focus on developing skill in assessments, consolidating academic learning with clinical learning, and increasing independence in working with clients. 8 weeks
March to
OTP III This course is a comprised of an eight-week full-time fieldwork opportunity. Students will participate in all parts of the practice process independently with a partial caseload, in consultation with preceptors. 8 weeks
January to March
 OTP IV This course is a comprised of an eight-week full-time fieldwork opportunity. Students will develop and implement an assessment, intervention, and outcome measurement plan for a up to a full caseload with a typical level of complexity.   Preceptors will provide feedback as need on skills areas that students are working on developing in preparation for entry to practice. 8 weeks
June to August

Placement Streams

There are 4 main streams available for assignment of students to various placement experiences:

  • In-Catchment (McMaster University OT catchment)
  • Out-of-Catchment (Sites outside of the McMaster University OT catchment)
  • Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) Pan-Northern Ontario
  • Out-of-Catchment International (typically occurring in OTP IV, with possible negotiation for occurrence in OTP III depending on availability and early knowledge of an available placement).

In all streams, placement preferences will be considered, however all placement allocations are based on the supply of available placements, facilities, and occupational therapy preceptors. Due to these factors, particular sites, practice areas, or geographical preferences will never be possible to be guaranteed in any stream for specific time periods.

  • Students in OTP I may have the opportunity to select one of 3 streams; In-Catchment (IC), Out-of-Catchment (OOC) or NOSM
  • Students in OTP II and III have the opportunity of select 3 streams; In-Catchment (IC), Out-of-Catchment (OOC) or NOSM
  • Students in OTP IV have the opportunity of select 4 streams; In-Catchment (IC), Out-of-Catchment (OOC), NOSM or Out-Of-Catchment International 

Students may only be in one catchment stream for each placement course. A change of catchment streams after committing to a preferred stream can only occur on the basis of changed documented medical needs or other extenuating circumstances that prohibit the student from continuing on with the originally requested stream. The Clinical Education program relies on and works within recruitment processes based on the numbers of students requesting each stream to ensure placements for all students.


As soon as sufficient placements are obtained, students in the in-catchment stream for OTP II, OTP III, and OTP IV will have the opportunity to review the list of available placements and submit their top ten preferences for consideration. In some terms, depending on the speed and volume of placement recruitment, more than one matching round will be used.

It is the student’s decision to participate in matching processes.

Randomized Selection Process

  • For in-catchment placements (IC), all submitted students’ preferences are entered into a software system that assists with the matching process.
  • The probability of each student obtaining one of 10 preferences depends directly on the number of students requesting any given placement.
  • Following the randomized process, the initial matched list is reviewed and adjusted to meet all requirements related to issues such as:
    • Meeting formal documented academic accomodations for students registered with Student Accessibility Services (SAS), religious observance, etc.
    • Specific learning needs and environments for each student
    • Requirements of site and/or preceptor such as timing of placement

NOSM Stream

The Northern Studies Stream (NSS) was established in 1991 to specifically address the shortage of OTs, PTs, and SLPs in Northwestern Ontario through various recruitment and retention initiatives. This is a joint initiative between McMaster University and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM). NOSM coordinates student placements across northern Ontario for a multitude of health disciplines.

The goals of the current NSS are threefold:

● To increase student awareness and knowledge of the health determinants that are unique to northern and rural communities;

● To increase student awareness of health issues, culture, and health practices relevant to the Indigenous Peoples living in northern and rural Ontario; and

● To increase student skills in addressing professional practice issues while engaging in clinical education and living in a northern and/or rural community.

With 30 years of documented success, the current NSS is focused on providing clinical education opportunities for students across northern Ontario. Each year, students in the McMaster OT Program will have the opportunity to apply for a clinical education placement in northern Ontario.

Students who are northern Ontario residents will be given priority for placements, however, any student, regardless of residency, may apply. Clinical education sites may be located in the communities of:

● Atikokan

● Dryden

● Fort Frances

● Kenora

● Manitouwadge/Marathon

● Nipigon

● Sioux Lookout

● Thunder Bay

● Wawa

● Blind River

● Bracebridge

● Cochrane

● Elliot Lake

● Englehart

● Espanola

● Gore Bay

● Gravenhurst

● Haileybury

● Hearst

● Huntsville

● Iroquois Falls

● Kapuskasing

● Kirkland Lake

● Little Current

● Mattawa

● Moose Factory

● New Liskeard

● North Bay

● Parry Sound

● Sault Ste. Marie

● Smooth Rock Falls

● Sturgeon Falls

● Sudbury

● Timmins

Early in Term 1, a NOSM information session is held for all students. This session may be in-person with team members from NOSM or may be provided through virtual classroom means. To apply for the NOSM stream, students must:

i) Complete an electronic preference form, listing which placement term they wish to apply for the NOSM stream. Students may list more than one term but must rank these terms listed in order of preference.

ii) Submit a letter, indicating why they would like to complete a placement in Northern Ontario. These letters are reviewed and ranked accordingly for each placement term.

Enrolled students are directed to the Clinical Education folder in Avenue to Learn for full information and procedures.

Students selected will submit preferences of location and clinical practice prior to their placements term. Instructions and timelines will be provided by the DCE. Once students have been assigned an NSS placement, it is their responsibility to fulfill this agreement. The only reason that is accepted for withdrawing from an NSS placement is for medical concerns (documentation must be provided) or extenuating circumstances. Please speak directly to the DCE.

Students not selected for a NOSM placement will default into the in-catchment stream and can request to be placed on a waiting list in the case of a spot becomes available.

Please note: The McMaster OT program limits the number of Northern Ontario placements per student throughout the 2 year program to one placement; in some circumstances approval may be sought for a student to have a second placement experience however this is managed on a case by case basis, and is entirely dependent on supply of placements, and allocated on the basis of fair and equitable access for all students; these can occur in any areas within the Pan-Northern Ontario geography.

More information about the NOSM stream can be found here.

Out of Catchment

The Inter-University System manages placement offers OUTSIDE McMaster University catchment area (OOC) but still within Canada.This OOC stream is managed through the Director of Clinical Education (DCE) who works within the system used nationally by all university programs. Students interested in this stream will submit an application when requested by the DCE and Clinical Education Assistant (CEA). Students will be required to determine one (1) out-of-catchment area only on their application in any term.

International Placements

In OTP IV, or, in some situations, OTP III, students have the option of applying to complete an international placement. The Occupational Therapy program believes that international learning experiences have the potential to:

  • Enhance students' sensitivity to other cultures, awareness of global health issues and different health care systems
  • Prepare health care professionals to adapt their practice to their own culturally diverse communities
  • Support and promote the profession internationally and enable the student to act as an ambassador for Canadian occupational therapy.

The International placement stream is defined as encompassing the developed and developing world. Students who meet specified criteria are provided the opportunity to complete their OTP IV, or, in some situations, OTP III placement in an international setting.

A map showing the placements in the placement list.

Occupational Therapy Program placements can take place in a variety of areas throughout Southern Ontario.  The following lists and accompanying map display the core and shared catchment areas that the program covers. 

McMaster Catchment Core Areas
McMaster - University of Western Ontario Shared Catchment

Practicum Evaluation

The Competency Based Fieldwork Evaluation for OccupationalTherapists (CBFE-OT) (Bossers, et al., 2007) is used to evaluate student performance during all practica experiences and guides remedial work. The use of the CBFE-OT which incorporates both visual analogue scale (VAS) and student learning objectives, reinforces the student’s role as an active participant in the process of learning rather than a passive recipient. In the professional preparation setting, the CBFE-OT allows the student to meet the Program objectives and also to pursue individual objectives.

CBFE-OT is a document drawn up by the student and negotiated and approved by the practice preceptor or faculty member. It specifies seven essential competencies, what the student will learn, how this will be accomplished, within what time frame, and what specific evaluation criteria will be used for each objective. The CBFE-OT reconciles the "imposed" requirements of the Program with the learner's own personal goals and objectives. It enables the student to individualize his/her own way of achieving personal learning objectives, and to measure the progress towards achieving them.

Objective measurement of the attainment of essential competencies through the integration of skills, knowledge and professional behaviours is also guided by the competencies from the Profile of Occupational Therapists in Canada.

Becoming an OT Preceptor

Preceptor Education Program (PEP) for Health Professionals and Students

“This free online program contains self-directed modules designed for both preceptors (Clinical Instructors) and students. Each module is approximately 30 minutes in length and includes quick tips, learning activities and downloads. A certificate can be printed at the end of each module to record the education completed. Module topics: orientation, developing learning objectives, giving and receiving informal feedback, understanding and fostering clinical reasoning, fostering reflective practice, dealing with conflict, formal evaluation process.” Click here to get started.

E-Tips for Practice Education

E-Tips is a series of eight web-based, interactive education modules to help develop skills and confidence for health care preceptors, clinical educators, fieldwork supervisors and more. Module topics: Setting the stage for clinical teaching, Learning in the practice education setting, Teaching skills, Fostering clinical reasoning, Giving feedback, The evaluation process, Supporting the struggling student, Strategies for resolving conflict.”

Clinical Education Site Approval Process

The revised Canadian Guidelines for Fieldwork Education in Occupational Therapy (CGFEOT) (2005) are consensus-based and reflect current best practice in determining optimal conditions for fieldwork education. These guidelines are intended to ensure that each fieldwork experience provides excellent learning opportunities and resources and an optimum environment for learning. If you are interested in becoming an approved Fieldwork Site with the McMaster University MSc OT Program please review the attached documents and contact the Professional Practice Coordinator.

To ensure the highest levels of quality in fieldwork education, university fieldwork coordinators are mandated to review updated FS-PRO documents
every 5 years.



Please electronically complete and submit this form to

This will be reviewed and feedback provided about clarity and comprehensiveness of the information provided. Following approval, your facility will receive notification of approval, and a Certificate of Approval.


Please electronically complete and submit this supplementary form as part of the FS-PRO process.

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