The Clinical Site Visit: Perspectives of Physical Therapist Students
Purpose/Hypothesis: Physical therapist students (PTS) are required to complete clinical education experiences as part of the curriculum. Best practice in clinical education includes actions to ensure strong partnerships and close, consistent communication between all stakeholders. One way this can be accomplished is through a clinical site visit. There is limited literature supporting the most preferred communication method (in-person, phone, videoconferencing) for conducting these visits. Literature investigating perspectives of PTS about site visits is scarce. The purposes of this study were to: 1. Investigate the perceptions of PTS regarding the role of the clinical site visit in the clinical education experience, 2. Determine if there is a relationship between PTS’ level of clinical experience and their preferences for site visit communication method, 3. Determine if there are differences in PTS’ perceptions of importance of the role of the site visit based on their communication method used during a site visit, and communication method preferred for future site visits. 4. Discover what PTS perceive as differences between in-person site visits and those done using technology or telephone. Number of Subjects: 135 Materials and Methods: A mixed-methods, sequential explanatory design was used. An online survey was sent via email to current PTS and recent graduates from 43 accredited physical therapy programs in the Northeastern region of the United States. Semi-structured interviews were conducted using a subset of the survey participants. Descriptive statistics, a Chi square test of independence, and Kruskal-Wallis tests were used. Qualitative data were analyzed using thematic analysis and the constant comparative method. Results: Statistical analysis showed no relationship between level of experience and preferences for communication methods and no differences in the level of importance of site visits. Qualitative data analysis showed that PTS perceived site visits as important for checking in and making sure the student is meeting their goals. Further, PTS perceive in-person communication as truthful due to the non-verbal cues it affords, and feel in-person site visits are necessary when students are having issues. Conclusions: Clinical site visits are perceived by PTS as being important, and levels of importance are not impacted by methods of communication. Students are cognizant of non-verbal cues that occur with in-person communication and that they add to transparency and honesty of conversations. Non-verbal communication may be most impactful when a student has difficulties. Clinical Relevance: Clinical site visits, though useful, require a potentially burdensome amount of resources from multiple stakeholders, including clinical instructors, Directors of Clinical Education, and site coordinators. This study provides information that can assist in the decision-making process for communication methods used for these site visits. Further research is needed to determine if there is alignment between PTS perspectives and those of other stakeholders.