Academic journal article Journal, Physical Therapy Education

Comparison of the Student/site Computer Matching Program and Manual Matching of Physical Therapy Students in Clinical Education

Academic journal article Journal, Physical Therapy Education

Comparison of the Student/site Computer Matching Program and Manual Matching of Physical Therapy Students in Clinical Education

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. The purpose of this study was to compare the results of the newly developed Student/Site Computer-Assisted Matching Program (SSCAMP) from the American Physical Therapy Association with the results of a manual student matching program used in a physical therapist program. The author hypothesized that the computer-assisted matching program would reduce the time for matching of students and that the matches would not be significantly different than those done with the manual matching method. One class of first-year professional (entry-level) physical therapist students were matched using both the new SSCAMP and the previously utilized manual matching method. Comparisons were made between the manual matching method and the computer-assisted matching process for time expenditures used in the matching process and for differences in successful student matches. Time expenditures (in hours), frequency distributions, and percentages of successful matches are reported, as well as a chi-square statistic to compare the differences in successful matches between the two methods. The author's results suggest that there was no significant difference between the computermatched site assignments and the manual method site assignments. Less time was used for the computer-assisted matching method. The author also observed anecdotally that students adopted a more self-directed style for decision making about their clinical placements. Because there was a time reduction for student placements and because the matches were similar under both methods, the computer-assisted matching will be the method of choice for student/clinical site matching at this physical therapist program.

INTRODUCTION

The process of student clinical assignment in a physical therapy program has traditionally involved many task hours for the Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education (ACCE) or the Director of Clinical Education (DCE) for hand-matching of students to available clinical sites. With the increase in student enrollment, limited time of the ACCE/DCE because of other faculty responsibilities, and time spent soliciting site placements from many facilities, the time to complete this large task has increased. With an increase in the number of physical therapy programs, there have been increased demands to streamline the placement process so that clinical sites have information on their student placements more quickly. Time is, therefore, a key issue in both the placement process and the communication of this information to the clinical sites.

In addition to the time issues, the process of hand-matching students to clinical sites is subjective and may be guided by preconceived ideas about a student by the ACCE/DCE. Because the matching process has primarily been done by the ACCE/DCE, reviewing students' preferences and then matching those preferences to site availability, there are concerns of bias toward certain students and fairness about placements. The manual matching process puts the ultimate control for site placement with the ACCE/DCE and tends to foster a more passive participation by the student in this placement process. With a shift of degree levels to master's degree and professional (entry-level) doctorate, the age of students in today's physical therapy programs has increased, with an increased focus on adult learning. A physical therapy program may choose to foster more self-directed learning and increased responsibility for aspects of professional development. Shifting from a manual matching process to another method of placement that puts an increased responsibility on students for their clinical site selections would foster these concepts.

A greater number of education programs, as well as students, now have knowledge about and access to computer technology. Professional education programs may have computer laboratory space available for student use, and many students now utilize various computer software programs with ease. …

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