Stakeholder perceptions of a novel student clinical internship in physical therapy research lab


There is a need for physical therapist (PT) researchers in the clinic and academia; however, few pursue either route. This observation, coupled with student interest in a university-based research lab, spurred the development of a novel student internship designed to expose and engage students in research. The purpose of this case study is to describe the experiences and perceptions of key stakeholders in this unique clinical internship.


One PT student was selected through a competitive process to participate in a 10-week internship at a university research lab. All stakeholders, including the student, Director of Clinical Education (DCE), Center Coordinator of Clinical Education (CCCE), and Clinical Instructor (CI), participated in semi-structured interviews at three points in time: before, midpoint, and after completion of the internship. Data collection included interview transcriptions, student’s responses to email journal questions, and the CPI (Clinical Performance Instrument). Qualitative methods were used to identify themes from all data sources, triangulating transcripts and journal entries to establish consistency of findings.


All stakeholders viewed the experience positively, noting it met or exceeded initial expectations. They attributed some of the successful outcomes to the student, who demonstrated several characteristics of an adult learner including: flexibility, self-direction, and the ability to structure her time to set self-directed goals. Participating in all aspects of research (data collection, subject interventions, and data analyses), and working with multiple researchers on diverse projects provided the student with exposure and experience in research activities not typically available to students in an entry-level program. The student noted that, “This unique clinical experience provided me with a whole different perspective on how research can be used to advocate for our profession. It made me realize that any PT (not just professors with their PhDs) can be a creator of research.” These experiences strengthened the student’s resolve to use and eventually contribute to evidence-based practice to provide optimal patient care.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

All stakeholders recommended continuation of this model and suggested additional structure and advanced planning for future experiences to ensure optimal workload for the student and inclusion of predetermined learning experiences. Exploration of an alternate method of student assessment than the CPI is needed to better capture student performance of research-related activities and achievement of objectives. Long term follow up to determine impact of this experience is needed. This student experience may serve as a model to develop similar PT student internships that foster research skills and a positive attitude toward research. This presentation will address the student selection process, internship design, successes and challenges of the internship, and planned modifications to the model.


McWey L, Henderson T, and Piercy F. Cooperative learning through collaborative faculty-student research teams. Family Relations. 2006; 55(2): 252-262.
Schwartz, JK and Smith RO. Benefits of student engagement in interventional research. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 2016; 69(Suppl 2); 1-10.

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  • Control #: 2524974
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Mrs. Lori Hochman, Dr. Nicki Silberman, Carol Recker-Hughes
  • Keywords:

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