Improving PT and PTA Student Confidence in Roles, Responsibilities, and Communication through Small-Group Intra-Professional Activities


Collaborative team dynamics are crucial to optimize patient and organizational healthcare outcomes. Consequently, efforts to enhance provider confidence in key domains, including roles, responsibilities, and communication through intra-professional education is increasingly common, especially in early medicine and allied health training using active learning strategies. Unfortunately, limited scholarship exists regarding techniques to improve student confidence in intra-professional dynamics between physical therapy (PT) and physical therapy assistant (PTA) students. Thus, appreciating the unique clinical environment for physical therapists (PT) and physical therapy assistants (PTA), the purpose of this study was to examine changes in student confidence across roles, responsibilities, and communication skills following small-group intra-professional activities. We hypothesize that PT and PTA student confidence in roles, responsibilities, and communication will increase following small-group intra-professional activities.


This pre-post survey design study utilized an 8-item, closed ended question instrument (5-point Likert scale; 1= Ònot confidentÓ to 5= Òcompletely confidentÓ) grounded in experiential learning theory with responses averaged to provide an overall score out of 5. Items were centered on student confidence in role delegation according to the state practice act, responsibilities across the plan of care, and communication among providers and clients. First-year PT students (n=57) as well as first and second-year PTA students (n=12) in the Midwestern United States participated. PT and PTA students were placed in small groups promoting intra-professional collaboration with resources and discussion prompts regarding similarities and differences in program training as well as state practice rules and statues. This was followed by the completion of a problem-based learning case study. Students completed the 8-item survey pre and post the small-group activities. Differences in within-group means (SD) were examined using unpaired t-tests with significance accepted at p < 0.025 following a Bonferroni correction. Cohen d was used to determine effect size, with d > 0.8 interpreted as a ÔlargeÕ effect.


PT and PTA students demonstrated significant increases in confidence regarding roles, responsibilities, and communication skills following small-group intra-professional activities (PT-Pre: 2.80 ± 0.75, PT-Post: 4.37, p < 0.001; PTA-Pre: 3.23 ± 0.73, PTA-Post: 3.86 ± 0.51, p < 0.023), with changes demonstrating a ÔlargeÕ effect for both groups (PT- Cohen d = 2.55; PTA-Cohen d = 0.96).

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

A small group intra-professional activity among PT and PTA students increased confidence in roles, responsibilities, and communication. In efforts to enhance team well-being and clinical care through evidence-based teaching and learning strategies, this study underscores the importance of early intra-professional active learning techniques to promote collaborative practice aimed at improving client outcomes. Further investigation into changes in cognitive and psychomotor domains following intra-professional education is suggested.

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  • Control #: 26691
  • Type: Poster Presentation - Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Kelly Stephens
  • Keywords:

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