Both Directors of Clinical Education (DCEs) and Site Coordinators of Clinical Education (SCCEs) should be recognized as leaders in physical therapist education, given their unique skill-set and multilevel influence within clinical education. A recent regional study identified characteristics of exemplary leaders in clinical education from DCE and SCCE perspectives. These findings were consistent with the 5 Practices of Exemplary Leaders as described by Kouzes and Posner. Further investigation was warranted to validate these findings on a larger scale and better understand factors that influence success in these positions. This knowledge can guide recruitment, training and retention of future clinical education leaders. The purposes of this qualitative phenomenological study were to identify characteristics of effective leaders in physical therapy clinical education across the United States and to develop a model of clinical education leadership that was broadly applicable.
Directors and Site Coordinators of Clinical Education representing all regional clinical education consortia, who were recognized by their peers as leaders and had at least 10 years of experience in their position, were recruited through purposive sampling. The lived experience of these identified leaders was explored through an interpretive phenomenological approach. Cognitive mapping and one-on-one unstructured interviews were conducted to explore the participantsÕ perspectives on their longevity and success as DCEs and SCCEs. An inductive approach was utilized for initial coding and thematic development, analyzing DCE and SCCE data separately. During consensus building, the DCE and SCCE data were combined for final thematic development due to substantial overlap in initial coding and themes. Peer review and member checks enhanced dependability, credibility, and trustworthiness of the findings.
Twelve participants completed the study, representing broad geographic regions. Six preliminary themes, consistent with the literature, were identified. Clinical education leaders: (1) are clinicians at the core; (2) are skilled in creating meaningful relationships; (3) are fulfilled impacting the next generation of PTs; (3a.) are passionate about the individual journey to success: (3b.) are motivated to impact the profession; (4) embrace challenges; (5) make things happen; and (6) are effective at self-advocacy and use of support systems.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
We are proposing a refined model of a clinical education leader that integrates these findings with the prior study. This model provides a useful approach to identify, mentor and support individuals with the leadership qualities needed to fulfill critical leadership positions in physical therapy clinical education in the United States. These findings can guide leadership training initiatives specifically designed to meet the needs of a complex and evolving clinical education landscape. This platform presentation, therefor, directly relates to the conference theme: Enhancing Team Well-Being through Physical Therapy Education, Promoting student, clinician and faculty leadership and professional development.