Integrated Clinical Experiences (ICEs) provide physical therapy (PT) students with the opportunity to integrate didactic content in the clinical environment and to begin to develop professional behaviors early in their education. To better provide relevant experiential learning opportunities, clinical instructors (CIs) need to be kept apprised of the content and sequencing of didactic coursework. A bidirectional partnership and regular communication between the academic institution (AI) and the clinical site is vital. However, it is unknown whether increased communication between the AI and site necessarily translates to an enhanced experience for students.
In their first year, Entry Level Doctor of PT students complete two ICEs, the second of which takes place in an outpatient orthopedic environment. Students are in clinic for 4 hours a week for 12 weeks, and take 2 academic courses with an orthopedic focus. CIs are provided with the ICE syllabus and a curriculum map, which briefly outlines weekly didactic content. At the end of the semester, students complete an ICE evaluation about learning activities, performance evaluations and the learning environment.
In 2015, CIs received additional weekly detailed email prompts regarding didactic content and were invited to join a private Facebook (FB) group page as a forum to ask questions related to the ICE, clinical education in general, and to foster bidirectional communication. At the end of the semester, CIs were surveyed about their experience.
At the time of submission, 21 students (out of 69) had completed the post ICE survey. A multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was conducted on responses from the 2014 cohort's experience and the 2015 preliminary data. While there was no significant difference between years (p<0.05), there was a noticeable upward trend in 2015 data regarding how well learning activities were effectively coordinated with the rest of the semester’s curriculum. Complete data analysis will be presented. Of the 59 CIs, 23 opted to join the FB group page. CIs reported that while they appreciated being kept updated on didactic content, they were unable to effectively utilize the information due to lack of control over the type of patient the student was exposed during clinic hours.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education
In order to meet the objectives of the ICE (linking theory to practice), CIs need to function as an extension of the core faculty and be apprised of the didactic curriculum. The specific sequencing may not be as relevant as overall knowledge of content. This study was limited by the analysis of data from 2 different cohorts of students. Future studies will examine different methods of communication within 1 cohort. As experiential learning demands that students be self directed, they should also be given the opportunity to advocate for themselves and seek their own learning opportunities to integrate classroom content in the clinical environment.
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