Effects of Intervention on Coping Skills and Self-Efficacy in First Year Physical Therapy Students
Purpose/Hypothesis: Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students are faced with multiple stressors that may be more intense than their experiences in previous schooling. Examples include increased academic rigor, a larger workload, and performance of clinical skills in front of others. To maximize success, students must perceive that they are able to effectively cope with these stressors and possess active rather than avoidant coping strategies. The purpose of this research was to determine if an intra-curricular intervention focused on stress management, improvement of study skills, and enhancing self-awareness would improve coping self-efficacy of a cohort of DPT students in their first year. Number of Subjects: Forty first year DPT students. Materials and Methods: An electronic survey was sent to the first year DPT students at the beginning of their first, second, and third semesters following a presentation about the study. A faculty-led intervention consisting of four class sessions on stress management, study skills, and self-awareness was presented to the entire cohort during the first semester. Students who agreed to participate in the study did so anonymously. The survey included the Coping Self-Efficacy Scale (CSE) and open-ended questions related to students’ coping strategies and efficacy of the intervention. Repeated measures ANOVA and post hoc paired t tests with Bonferroni correction were used to compare mean CSE scores across and between each semester. Qualitative analysis of the responses from the open-ended questions was completed. Results: There was an 83% response rate to the first survey, 80% of initial participants completed the second survey and 58% of initial participants completed the third survey. CSE scores throughout this study were comparable to those from a previous study of similar design which did not include an intervention. In each study, students entered the DPT program with similar perceptions of their abilities to cope with stress, and CSE scores showed statistically significant improvement from the first survey to the third survey. Qualitative analysis did show differences between the non-intervention and intervention groups of students in the two studies, with only active coping strategies reported by the second cohort. Three main themes were identified as active coping strategies: internal coping methods (self-care, mindfulness, organization), external coping methods (social support, leisure activities), and exercise. The second cohort consistently reported benefits from the intervention, specifically teaching new strategies or reinforcing old ones, related to the intervention themes. Conclusions: Students improve in their coping self-efficacy throughout the first year of a DPT program with or without delivery of faculty-led intervention. An intervention can assist students in other ways such as improving study skills, improving stress management techniques, and enhancing self-awareness of their individual active coping strategies. Clinical Relevance: The DPT student experience may be improved by interventions promoting open discussion of study skills and stress management strategies.