Clinician Feedback Regarding Length of Physical Therapist Clinical Education Experiences


The clinical education (CE) community came together in the fall of 2014 for the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) Clinical Education Summit. This meeting of academic and clinical educators resulted in 15 recommendations that were presented to ACAPT for further consideration. One question from the Summit was what the ideal length of CE experiences should be in order for CE to remain sustainable. Currently, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) requires a minimum of 30 weeks of CE, but according to the most recent aggregate data, the range of CE was 23-68 weeks. Variability in length makes the job of the center coordinator of clinical education (CCCE) more difficult as they try and accommodate clinical students from various programs. The purpose of this survey was to collect data regarding clinical instructors (CI) preference for the ideal length for CE experiences.


An eight question survey was sent via CPI Web to all 611 (CI) from an urban physical therapy program from 2013-14. 108 responses were obtained (17.7% response rate). Questions included CI preferences regarding the ideal length of first, intermediate and final clinical education experiences. Data was also collected for reasons why CIs hosted a student, what incentives would encourage CIs to host a future student and what barriers exist to hosting CE students. Qualitative comments were also collected.


Respondents identified their preference for the "ideal" length of CE experiences. Data showed that 10 weeks was the ideal length for a first clinical (35% of respondents), 12 weeks for an intermediate clinical (48% of respondents) and 14 weeks for a terminal clinical internship (51% of respondents). The primary reason identified for why CIs worked with students was "I enjoy working with students" (89% of respondents). The incentive most influential for making the decision to host a student was virtual access to the program's library (66% of respondents). The main barrier to hosting a student was decreased productivity (35% of respondents). Many respondents provided robust qualitative data that gave insight to other factors regarding the variables that impact CIs decision to host CE students.

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

The Clinical Education Summit produced a theme that clinicians need a larger role in the decision making process regarding CE, including how long CE education experiences are and how they are structured. Data collected supports 10-14 week long CE experiences and more data should be collected in order to find what clinical education models can be supported by CIs. This research is relevant to the conference theme because in order to support student success, a sustainable model for CE needs to be shaped by data such as this. A closer partnership with clinicians, to identify and meet their needs, provides a more supportive learning environment.


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Martorello L. The optimal length of clinical internship experiences for entry-level physical therapist students as perceived by center coordinators of clinical education: a pilot study. J Phys Ther Educ. 2006; 20(1):56-58.

Portney, LG, Knab, MS. Implementation of a 1-year paid clinical internship in physical therapy. J Phys Ther Educ. 2001;15(4):31-35.

Rapport MJ, Kelly M, Hankin T, Rodriguez J, Tomlinson S. Shared Vision for Clinical Education: The Year-Long Internship. J Phys Ther Educ. 2014; 28 (1): 22-29

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  • Control #: 2289768
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Dr. Christopher Cesario, Debra Bangs
  • Keywords:

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