Advancing Interpersonal, Interprofessional and Clinical Skills: Teamwork through Training Collegiate Athletes
Purpose: Application of skills acquired during exercise-based certifications can provide opportunities for practicing professional and clinical skills, including communication and teamwork. There is little research on the outcomes from Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students utilizing skills obtained from exercise-based certifications while still in professional physical therapy programs. The National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) credential denotes expertise in strength and conditioning principles for the purpose of improving athletic performance, and it is a certification that is attainable by physical therapy students. The purpose of this qualitative study was to assess how attaining the CSCS credential and training multiple athletic teams affected DPT students’ professional and clinical skills on clinical rotations. Methods/Description: DPT students were provided the option to enroll in a faculty and student-guided review for the CSCS exam. Second-year DPT students who passed the CSCS examination volunteered as Strength and Conditioning Coaches for a NCAA Division II University for a 1-year span, working closely with athletic training staff and coaches. Each year, a total of 3-4 students trained the athletes, with a total of 10 subjects participating in the study.These students participated in training program design, implementation, and assessment of the university’s athletes with each student averaging over 11 hours of service per week for at least a 12 month period. Each student had at least 8 months of experience performing strength and conditioning services prior to their first full-time clinical rotation. The comments clinical instructors made on the students’ CPIs from their first full-time outpatient and inpatient clinical rotations were independently coded. Themes were developed from the codes. Comparison of coding and themes found a high degree of consistency between researchers. Internal and external homogeneity and plausibility were ensured through systematic analysis of themes. Results/Outcomes: Main themes that emerged from clinical instructors’ comments were that students demonstrated good communication skills including handling challenging conversations with colleagues, patients, and other professionals; effective interprofessional interactions and teamwork; attention to movement analysis; and empathy when working with a diverse group of patients. The majority of clinical instructors reported students exceeded expectations for performance in both first outpatient and inpatient clinical rotations. Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Creating learning opportunities and collaborations through exercise-based certifications promotes physical therapy student interaction in professional realms with diverse and intergenerational populations prior to full-time clinical experiences. This may foster development of professional and clinical skills, such as interprofessional collaborations and handling challenging conversations with a broad range of individuals, as is required in clinical practice. Additionally, these opportunities may improve understanding of and interaction with a diverse group of clients.