Nuts & Bolts for the Novice DCE/ACCE: Building a Foundation for Student Success


Clinical education accounts for a minimum of 30 weeks, or approximately one-third of physical therapy education, and 520-720 hours of physical therapist assistant education. A well-rounded and informed Director of Clinical Education (DCE) or Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education Coordinator (ACCE) can play a significant role in promoting student success throughout the clinical component of their education. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) identifies the DCE in physical therapist (PT) and Clinical Education Coordinator (CEC) in physical therapist assistant (PTA) programs as a core faculty member with distinct duties related to conducting, coordinating, and evaluating the clinical education program. ACCE is the common title given to CECs in PTA programs. This educational session will provide the novice DCE/ACCE (0-3 years) with an overview of foundational information about the role of the DCE/ACCE, ideas for building optimal clinical relationships, and insights from experienced faculty on challenging situations during clinical experiences.

Methods and/or Description of Project

This educational session will provide foundational information, interactive engagement utilizing small group discussion of principles, and reinforcement of knowledge through exploration of realistic student – clinical instructor (CI) scenarios. The presenters range from novice to experienced faculty in the roles of CI, Center Coordinator of Clinical Education (CCCE), DCE, ACCE, and program director, to bring a combination of perspectives on clinical education.

Specifically, the session will consist of three main sections: 1) Laying the Foundation: The Equipped DCE/ACCE; 2) Building Optimal Relationships; and 3) Challenging Clinical Education Situations for the Novice DCE/ACCE. All three areas will be addressed from multiple perspectives utilizing a variety of resources. It's important to capitalize on knowledge from various sources in order to design structures that help foster student success and facilitate a pursuit for innovation.

Laying the foundation will orient the DCE/ACCE to resources for "tools of the trade". CAPTE requirements provide a roadmap to the DCE/ACCE for performance and responsibilities, requiring tracking and reporting. Administrative and budget support must be considered in the design of a clinical education program. Legal counsel may be necessary to draft and enforce policies relating to clinical education issues. Consortium membership provides the resources and mentorship for the novice DCE/ACCE to develop personally and professionally, thus be prepared to foster student success.

Building optimal relationships will focus on ways for the DCE/ACCE to connect with CCCEs and CIs to meet mutual goals. It is important that the DCE/ACCE is able to assess the learning environment, provide opportunity for coaching and mentoring, and explore ways to streamline resources to optimize opportunity for student success. This section will explore ways to foster growth of clinical partners and build relationships utilizing practical techniques, while being respectful of busy clinicians. Additionally, the DCE/ACCE must be able to approach clinical partners in a collaborative manner if the environment is not conducive to student success.

Challenging clinical education situations for the novice DCE/ACCE will address the need to follow regulations, policies, and procedures in handling individual student issues. Options for students who struggle will be discussed. It is important to encourage and foster early reporting by students and the clinical instructors, and investigate and understand issues from all aspects. This section will allow the participant to practice analysis and decision-making using case scenarios involving challenges in the clinical setting with CIs, CCCEs, and students.


The participant will gain knowledge about the DCE/CEC role and responsibilities and will learn to utilize practical tools and resources that can be immediately implemented to effectively foster student success in the clinical environment.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education

The DCE/ACCE is in a unique position to mentor clinical faculty and facilitate the students’ successful transition from the academic to the clinical setting. Stimulating student learning and success in the clinical setting requires innovation and multiple strategies.

The rapid development of new PT and PTA programs across the country, as well as growth and change in existing programs, places the novice DCE/ACCE in the challenging position of assuring legal accountability and accreditation compliance while positively influencing student achievement. This educational session will provide the beginner DCE/ACCE with information and relatable experience about developing the clinical education component of the curriculum, as well as knowledge and insight to prepare for future challenging student/CI situations.


Barr JO, Wong R. Preparing Students to Provide Services to Older Adults. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014;28(3):5-6.

Bellamy J. Academic Faculty Development. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from

Bellamy J. Clinical Educator & Clinical Site Development. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from

Bellamy J. Educator Resources for Academic Faculty. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from

Buccieri KM, Pivko SE, Olzenak DL. Development of an Expert Clinical Instructor: A Theoretical Model for Clinical Teaching in Physical Therapy. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2013;27(1):48-57.

CAPTE PTA Standards Evidence.pdf. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from

CAPTE PT Standards Evidence.pdf. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from

Deusinger SS, Crowner BE, Burlis TL, & Stith JS. Meeting Contemporary Expectations for Physical Therapists: Imperatives, Challenges, and Proposed Solutions for Professional Education. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014;28(Supplement 1):56-61.

Evaluative Criteria PTA.pdf. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from

Evaluative Criteria PT.pdf. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from

Essential Competencies in the Care of Older Adults. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014;28(2):91-93.

Gardner K. APTA Curriculum Resources for Educators. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from

Gardner K. Assessments for Educators. Retrieved April 10, 2015, from

Guide to Physical Therapist Practice 3.0. American Physical Therapy Association. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from

Hall M, McFarlane L-A, Mulholland S. Positive clinical placements: perspectives of students and clinical educators in rehabilitation medicine. Int J Ther Rehabil. 2012;19(10):549-556.

Hayes KH, Huber G, Rogers J, Sanders B. Behaviors that cause clinical instructors to question the clinical competence of physical therapist students. Phys Ther. 1999;79(7):653-667.

Jette DU, Nelson L, Palaima M, &Wetherbee E. How Do We Improve Quality in Clinical Education? Examination of Structures, Processes, and Outcomes. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014;28(Supplement 1):6-12.

Lo K, Osadnik C, Leonard M, Maloney S. Differences in student and clinician perceptions of clinical competency in undergraduate physiotherapy. New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy. 2015;43(1):11-15.

Lowe DL, Gabard DL. Physical therapist student experiences with ethical and legal violations during clinical rotations: reporting and barriers to reporting. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014;28(3):98-111.

Luedtke-Hoffmann K, Dillon L, Utsey C, Tomaka J. Is there a relationship between performance during physical therapist clinical education and scores on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)? Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2012;26(2):41-49.

Recker-Hughes C, Wetherbee E, Buccieri KM, et al. Essential Characteristics of Quality Clinical Education Experiences: Standards to Facilitate Student Learning. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014;28(Supplement 1):47-55.

Rules of Practice and Procedure.pdf. Retrieved April 8, 2015, from

Wedge F, Mendoza M, Reft J. Development of Geriatric Curricular Content Within a Physical Therapist Assistant Education Program. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014;28(2):84-90.

Wetherbee E, Peatman N, Kenney D, Cusson M, Applebaum D. Standards for clinical education: a qualitative study. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2010;24(3):35-43.

Willgens AM, Sharf R. Failure in clinical education: using mindfulness as a conceptual framework to explore the lived experiences of 8 physical therapists. Journal of Physical Therapy Education. 2014;29(1):70-80.

Course Objectives

Course Objectives: At the completion of the session, the novice DCE will be able to:
1. Identify tools and resources to assist with performance of job responsibilities related to conducting, coordinating and evaluating the clinical education program.
2. Develop relationships that build and sustain academic and clinical partnerships.
3. Apply applicable law and policies to protect the rights of students and facilities.
4. Demonstrate effective communication strategies to investigate issues of student performance in the clinical setting.

Instructional Methods

Lecture and interactive discussion using case scenarios and video

Tentative Outline/Schedule

I. Introduction and Objectives (5 min.)
II. Laying the Foundation: The Equipped DCE/ACCE (25 min.)
III. Building Optimal Relationships (25 min.)
IV. Challenging Clinical Education Situations for the Novice DCE/ACCE (25 min.)
V. Questions & Answers (10 min.)

BACK to Abstract Results

  • Control #: 2281165
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Dr. Julie DeVahl, Dr. Jenise Engelke, Dr. Barbara Gresham, Chad Jackson
  • Keywords:

BACK to Abstract Results