Self-Reported Characteristics of Physical Therapy Clinical Instructors: A Comparison to the American Physical Therapy Association's Guidelines and Self-Assessments for Clinical Education

Article excerpt

Background and Purpose. The purpose of the study was to determine, by self-report, the professional development and educational activities engaged in by physical therapists (PTs) who choose to be clinical instructors (CIs) in physical therapist education programs. The researchers sought to describe the characteristics of CIs, correlate the characteristics to selected guidelines for CIs from the American Physical Therapy Association's Guidelines and Self-Assessments for Clinical Education,11 and determine relationships between characteristics of CIs and self-report of effectiveness and competence as supervisors of physical therapist students.

Subjects. The investigators, participating academic members of the New York New Jersey Physical Therapy Clinical Education Consortium, randomly selected 349 clinical sites affiliated with the physical therapist education programs. From this sample of convenience, all CIs identified on the Clinical Site Information Forms of selected clinical affiliates were selected as subjects.

Methods. Investigator-designed questionnaires tested for content and face validity were mailed to 1,812 CIs listed on the Clinical Site Information Forms by the Center Coordinators of Clinical Education at the 349 selected sites.

Results. Of the total surveys mailed, 621 surveys were returned, for a response rate of 33%. CIs were primarily female, had obtained professional (entry-level) Bachelor of Science or Master of Science degrees, had been practicing physical therapy for 2 or more years, had participated in continuing education courses, and had supervised between 1 and 4 students per year. CIs reported that they were effectively prepared to be CIs and felt competent in this role. Positive relationships existed between self-report of effectiveness and the respondent's age, years in physical therapist practice, years as a CI, total number of students supervised, credentialing as a CI, and use of the Guide to Physical Therapist Practice.28

Discussion and Conclusion. The outcomes of this study could provide information to academic and clinical communities for program development and training activities to enhance PT clinical education.

Key Words: Clinical instructor characteristics, Self-report, Effectiveness, Competence.


The clinical education component of a professional (entry-level) physical therapist (FT) education program provides physical therapist students with opportunities to apply skills and knowledge obtained in the classroom setting to patient care experience in a clinical setting.1 The student applies learned knowledge and skills with supervision from a licensed PT serving in the role of clinical instructor (CI). The clinical education coursevvork challenges students to integrate academic knowledge, professional development, and physical therapy skills to achieve effective patient/client management in complex environments. CIs have the opportunity to influence the education of students by demonstrating and teaching professional skills and behaviors those students can observe and emulate.2

Academic programs establish contracts at affiliated sites to coordinate and develop clinical education and facilitate effective experiences for PT students in a varieh- of clinical environments.' Physical therapist education programs and clinical education faculty utilize a variety of tools and methods to assess quality in clinical education as has been reported in other disciplines.4-9 Students provide the academic program feedback on their learning opportunities and experiences for each clinical setting. In addition, faculty members complete clinical site visits and make phone calls to the site to assess student performance and the quality of the educational opportunities available at that site. The academic program assesses the information gathered to determine whether effective clinical education has been provided and makes decisions regarding the development needs of affiliate sites and the retention of the contractual agreement with the facility. …


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