Educational Benefit of Student-Run Physical Therapy Clinic Differs Based on Year in Program
Purpose/Hypothesis: Many healthcare academic programs provide voluntary opportunities in pro bono student-run clinics (SRC). A small expanding body of literature in medical education suggests that voluntary pro bono SRCs simultaneously provide high quality care and experiential learning. The purpose of this study was to evaluate if students perceive that mandatory involvement in a pro bono physical therapy SRC enhances their education. Our hypothesis was that students’ perceptions would increase with progression through the DPT curriculum and positive perceptions would relate to more time spent providing patient care in the pro bono SRC. Number of Subjects: 175 surveys distributed Materials and Methods: An anonymous Qualtrics survey was distributed to all enrolled students in one DPT program twice in a two-year period to elicit student perceptions via a 5-point Likert scale of how involvement in the SRC impacted their educational experience. Survey also included estimated time in hours spent related to varied clinic responsibilities. Results: Year 1 response rate was 73.33% with a 95% completion rate. Year 2 response rate was 80% with a 97% completion rate. Data was analyzed using descriptive statistics, t-test for group differences alpha level = .05, and correlation coefficients to determine relationships. Overall, students reported positive perceptions with no significant differences between survey year (p=0.85). Significant increases were found as students progressed from 1st to 2nd year in the program (p=0.01). No significant differences were found as students progressed from 2nd to 3rd year (p=0.62). Overall, there was a moderate positive correlation (0.37) between time spent in patient care and student perceptions of educational benefit. After further analysis, 1st year students positive perceptions of educational enhancement were highly related to time spent in patient care (0.56). There was a low correlation among 2nd year students (0.26) and moderate negative correlation between perceptions and time in 3rd year students (0.34). Conclusions: Overall, students perceived required time in SRC positively enhanced their educational experience. For 1st and 2nd year students, higher amounts of patient care hours correlated with enhanced positive perceptions suggesting early immersion in a pro bono SRC is more educationally beneficial as it allows for patient interaction and application of didactic content. As students advance in the curriculum, positive educational perceptions were less related to time spent in patient care in the pro bono SRC. In the final academic year, increased time spent in the clinic was negatively correlated with perceptions of educational enhancement. This may be due to completion of more full-time clinical education experiences in the curriculum as well as cynicism and increased professional/academic obligations outside of class. Clinical Relevance: DPT programs should consider voluntary versus mandatory hours in the final year. Additionally, supervising faculty should observe for signs of burnout and engage students in higher level critical thinking to foster more advanced skills and knowledge to provide a positive educational experience.