Teaching and Learning about Patient Education in Physical Therapy Professional Preparation: Academic and Clinical Considerations

By Mostrom, Elizabeth; Shepard, Katherine F. | Journal, Physical Therapy Education, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Teaching and Learning about Patient Education in Physical Therapy Professional Preparation: Academic and Clinical Considerations


Mostrom, Elizabeth, Shepard, Katherine F., Journal, Physical Therapy Education


ABSTRACT: The role of the physical therapist as patient educator is central to everyday practice as a clinician. Thus, an important question for physical therapy educators is how to best teach and help students learn about patient education in physical therapy professional education, This article draws on personal reflection and practical experience as well as current theory and research to consider how physical therapy educators can facilitate the development of competent patient educators. Lessons that can be learned about patient education bv students in academic and clinical environments are described and explored. Me highlight educational strategies and experiences, emphasizing sellreflection, in both of these settings that can make unique and enduring contributions to student learning about the multifaceted and complex process of patient education.

INTRODUCTION

As this special issue and a plethora of literature attests, the role of the physical therapist as a patient educator is central to everyday practice as a clinician.1-11 Some investigators and the master therapists they studied have gone so far as to characterize therapy as an educative endeavor, with clinical encounters consisting largely of reciprocal teaching and learning between therapist and client.12-17 The effectiveness of therapy can most certainly hinge on the therapist's ability to establish therapeutic relationships with clients and the therapist's skill as a teacher. Furthermore, in today's health care environment, in which the frequency of patient encounters in therapy has been diminishing, the need for clinicians to be competent patient educators is even more essential.

The importance of becoming a skilled patient educator for developing and practicing therapists is reflected in many of the American Physical Therapy Association's core documents such as the Guide to Physical Therapy Practice, 18 A Normative Model of Physical Therapist Pro./sional Education, 19 the Evaluative Criteria for Accreditation of Education Programs jor the Preparation of Physical Therapists,20 and the PhYsical Therapy Clinical Performance Instrument 21 A key question, then, for physical therapy educators is how to best teach and help students learn about patient education in the context of the professional curriculum. How can we foster the development of effective patient educators?

Physical therapist professional preparation occurs in two primary environments-academic or classroom settings and clinical settingseach of which have unique physical, social, and cultural characteristics that create the milieu in which learning occurs. In this article, we discuss teaching and learning about patient education in each of these environments and consider what aspects of experience in these settings might enhance or impede the development of competent patient educators. We do not want, however, to create an artificial separation between these two environments with respect to what can be taught and learned about patient education. There is much to be learned in both settings, although there may be some differences in the form and nature of what is taught and learned and who is doing the teaching about patient education. We see the professional educator's job as one of creating opportunities for linking classroom instruction and clinical experience so that students can navigate between these two environments with an ever-increasing understanding and valuing of the centrality and artistry of effective patient education in clinical work and with an expanding repertoire of knowledge, skills, and behaviors that might help them grow into exceptional teachers of patients and other care providers.

In addressing teaching and learning about patient education in professional curricula. we take a personal and practical approach that reflects our own learning about this topic over many years of teaching in physical therapist educational programs. Although our experience has been primarily in physical therapist education, we believe that what we have learned is also pertinent to physical therapist assistant educators who, like us, are concerned with the development of practitioners who are effective patient educators. …

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