Clinical Education Oversight: A Comparison of Indirect, in-Person and Webcam Approaches
Purpose: Clinical education (CE) is an integral part of physical therapy (PT) education. Effective CE relies on communication between the faculty, students, and clinical instructors (CIs). The initial perception is that in-person site visits will build strong relationships through direct contact between sites and the PT program. However, in-person visits are costly and the value of these visits is unexplored. The purpose of this investigation is to determine the value of different types of interaction between faculty, students, and CIs. The expectation is that in-person site visits will be perceived superior to indirect monitoring and webcam visits will be equivalent to in-person visits. Methods/Description: Twenty-one third year Doctor of Physical Therapy students of Florida A&M University, as well as twenty-seven CIs were surveyed prior to and at the conclusion of the final set of 8-week clinical rotations to assess the value of three forms of clinical oversight. During the first 8 weeks, students with their CIs received either an in-person site visit or were communicated with utilizing e-mail. During the second 8 weeks, the same students with different CIs received either an in-person visit or webcam visit. The rotations occurred in the southeast region of the United States, primarily near Tallahassee, FL. Results/Outcomes: This study showed that CIs previously most often received clinical oversight using e-mail. These CIs were satisfied with this approach, but stated that in-person site visits were warranted with a student performance concern. Regarding webcam visits there was not a significant difference in preference or perception as compared to the other oversight methods. Initially, the students reported a preference for passive oversight and a preference for webcam use if direct oversight was needed. The post study surveys found that all three forms of oversight were equally effective at managing the experience. Furthermore, in-person visits were valuable in building relationships between the site and University as evidenced by an increased willingness to accept future students. Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Generally, all three forms of clinical oversight are effective and acceptable to the CIs and students. Although passive oversight is preferred, in-person visits best assist with management of student performance concerns. In-person site visits are also valuable in developing a relationship between the clinical site and University. PT programs face the challenge of managing students while on CE. Two areas of concern involve the cost of travel associated with CE oversight, as well as the future availability of sites for student placement. This study found that oversight was effective regardless of the form that it took. This allows faculty to use a situational approach in choosing the appropriate form of oversight based on the specific needs of the instructor and student. Moreover, this study found that clinical oversight was a valuable tool for building relationships and securing future clinical placements.