Patterns of Coping Skill Use and Confidence over Time Among Dpt Students
Examine coping skill utilization and confidence among DPT students, looking for patterns of relationship with time and personal characteristics. Understanding of these patterns allows better-informed resource allocation for student support.
Subjects were students within an accelerated entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy (eDPT) program during the first five semesters of the curriculum. This program instructs students in mindfulness and deep breathing practices, as part of their coursework. Participants completed an online survey at the beginning and end of each semester regarding stress and coping skills. Measures included the Perceived Stress Scale (S. Cohen) and a coping strategies inventory, which utilizes a 5 point Likert scale to rate the frequency that various coping skills are used, as well as demographic data. Patterns of coping skill utilization were examined, including changes over student tenure, and relationships with demographic and stress data. In addition, the relationship to confidence of participants to use deep breathing and mindfulness with a patient was examined.
Overall, the coping strategies most frequently utilized were Exercise, Sleep, Eating, watching television or movies, and spending time with family and friends. The coping skills of exercise, watching television, talking or writing about stressors, hobbies, cooking and meditation showed significant differences across semesters of study. When examining the trained coping skills of deep breathing and mindfulness, relationships were found between gender and use of mindfulness, and between age and household size with deep breathing. Other coping skills demonstrated significant relationships with gender, age, and household size, as well. Students did not express confidence in sharing deep breathing or mindfulness practice with patients, when assessed at the end of the semester in which the skill was trained, regardless of their reported personal utilization of that strategy.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
Students utilize a variety of coping strategies to manage their stress during school. The patterns of when and by whom various strategies are selected help to improve refinement of resources, training and recommendations provided to students by the institution and faculty advisers. The results suggest that a single semester of training and practice of a novel coping strategy does not provide adequate experience for learners to be confident in sharing coping skills with patients. This suggests that, if these skills are intended to be trained for clinical use, further reinforcement or training is needed.