Develop a systematic approach to identify and track studentsÕ soft skills and practical skills in preparation for a successful clinical internship.
According to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), Physical therapy educators have the responsibility of developing physical therapy students who demonstrate readiness for their first clinical experience through knowledge, skills, attitudes and professional behaviors, including, interprofessional communication, accountability, and clinical reasoning(1). Preparing students for a successful clinical experience is a learning outcome of most educational institutions. Traditional methods of assessing student readiness for clinical internships include mainly practical skill assessments. Successful internship completion however, also includes the assessment of studentsÕ soft skills such as professionalism and communication. CAPTE requires these soft skills be part of the studentÕs learning experience, however to date, the means for identifying and analyzing the level of student preparedness in soft skills is lacking. Faculty focus group comprised of the Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education (ACCE ) and senior faculty in the Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) program were chosen to identify key soft skills required for clinical readiness. Six soft skill assessments were selected directly from the Clinical Performance Instrument (CPI) to cover the following 3 critical domains: 1. Professional Behaviors ¥ÊWears attire consistent with expectations of the practice setting ¥ÊAccepts feedback without defensiveness ¥ÊMaintains patient privacy and modesty 2. Communication ¥ÊCommunicates, verbally and nonverbally, in a professional and timely manner using appropriate language the patient can understand ¥ÊListens actively and attentively to understand what is being communicated by others 3. Professional Development ¥ÊIdentifies strengths and limitations in clinical performance A practical rubric containing these soft skills was designed and issued to all faculty to use for practical testing along with their previously used skill-check rubrics. Students identified as deficient in any of these soft skill assessments or failed the practical were logged onto a faculty SharePoint site which included information such as the term and course the issue occurred, which soft skill domain or practical skill was the issue, and follow-up plan by faculty. This tracking system information initiated a remediation plan which included a meeting with the Academic Advisor, Faculty Advisor, and Program Director to meet with the student and together develop a plan to promote a successful clinical experience.
Soft skills and practical retakes were assessed, issues identified, and remediations took place for one year over 3 trimesters. Preliminary data is promising with no soft skill issues identified during clinical internship for those who have gone through the remediation process. In addition, since the implementation of the tacking system, the flagged students have demonstrated excellent retention in the DPT program.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
Early identification with appropriate remediation of soft skills can be a useful addition to educational programs where student professionalism and communication are critical to success. Implementation of a systematic process to accomplish this can be relatively simple yet effective in promoting student preparedness for clinical internship. With this systematic identification and tracking approach, soft skills can be assessed, issues identified, and remediation plans initiated before the students enter the clinical site. The American council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) supports the importance of identifying effective soft skills and proposes that to demonstrate clinical readiness, students should engage in self-assessment, utilize constructive feedback, and demonstrate effective verbal and non-verbal communication skills. (2)