Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Past Experiences of the Clinical Instructor and Current Attitudes toward Evaluation of Students

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Past Experiences of the Clinical Instructor and Current Attitudes toward Evaluation of Students

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to determine whether clinical instructors' past experiences as radiation therapy students impact how they currently evaluate students in the clinical setting. Two survey instruments were mailed to a random sample of 400 credentialed radiation therapists. The first of these questionnaires sought information on past experiences as a student, and the second assessed current attitudes toward clinical evaluation. There were 167 respondents, 85 of who were employed in settings involving the education of student radiation therapists. Among these clinical instructors, statistically significant correlations were found to exist between the two survey instruments that suggest respondents who believe they had positive experiences as radiation therapy students in the clinical setting are more likely to exhibit positive attitudes toward the clinical evaluation of their current students. J Allied Health 2007; 36:11-16.

CLINICAL EDUCATION in radiation therapy is an essential component of the student therapist's program of study. It provides exposure to role model practitioners and affords the student an opportunity to master the diagnostic and therapeutic skills necessary for successful entry-level practice. In the clinical setting, high-level performance and professional behaviors are expected of students at all times. These expectations were formed during the experience of the clinical instructors when they themselves were students. These learning experiences, whether positive or negative, have been shown to shape attitudes and beliefs about the profession.1

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the clinical instructorstudent dynamic is not always educationally productive. Clinical instructors typically do not have formal teaching backgrounds. As graduates and entry-level practitioners, their teaching vision is constructed by the relationships they experienced during their own clinical education.2

There are several contributing factors that may have a negative impact on the clinical instructor-student dynamic. Most radiation oncology centers are contained within teaching institutions. Clinical teaching responsibility for students is assigned to the radiation therapists. Within this environment, clinical instructors play a dual role. Their primary responsibility is to care for patients. secondarily, they must educate students in this profession. Treating a large number of patients can create a conflict between the two roles that clinical instructors play as part of the radiation oncology team. Students need to perform competencies on patients to acquire the necessary clinical skills required by the profession. Balancing the major roles, treating and teaching, can cause tension between the clinical instructor and the student. Additionally, students need to be supervised at all times. This adds an additional burden for the clinical instructor. Some radiation therapists do not want the additional responsibility required of the clinical instructor role. They would prefer to take care of patients and leave the responsibility of educating students to another clinical instructor. In some cases, this is not possible because of the incorporation of student teaching in position descriptions.

Explaining and reemphasizing the intricacies of procedures when they have become commonplace for clinical instructors can be an arduous task. In some cases, clinical instructors dislike constant questioning by students. Some students with high ability levels may achieve technical accuracy fairly quickly. They ask many critical-thinking questions that may be intimidating for the clinical instructor. Conversely, students with weaker abilities need to be given extra time and attention.

The main challenges of teaching students within the clinical environment are time pressures and competing demands.3 The clinical instructor and student may manifest resentment for each other because of conflicting expectations. …

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