Are Changes in Clinical Education Necessary? - Clinicians’ Perspectives


Clinical education is an essential component of all physical therapy curriculum.While physical therapy practice and academic preparation of physical therapists has changed significantly over the past thirty years, clinical education has not undergone as significant a transformation, raising the question of the effectiveness of traditional clinical education models in today’s practice environment.Growing enrollment in physical therapy schools has also created a need to think creatively to meet the clinical education needs of these students.In recent years several new education models have been introduced and described in the literature, however there is limited information published concerning clinicians’ perspectives on these evolving models.This study was designed to gather insight into clinicians’ perspectives on various clinical education models and factors which influence their decision to participate in clinical education.


A survey of demographic and Likert scale questions was mailed to 1000 randomly selected Pennsylvania licensed physical therapists with equal representation from each of the seven districts identified by the Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association. Surveys were mailed with pre-stamped return addressed envelopes with no personal identification required to assure participant confidentiality.


246 surveys were returned, of which 231 met the inclusion criteria.Data was analyzed utilizing Chi-square tests to correlate results from Likert questions with reported demographics.Data analysis demonstrated a well distributed sample across all demographics and practice settings. Participants’ responses strongly supported a preference for traditional full time 8-12 week experiences, with significantly less support for 6 and 12 month experiences. The majority of clinicians were not supportive of limited clinical partnerships, or the use of part-time integrated experiences, and most felt that 6-12 month experiences were best suited for post graduate residency. Responses regarding 2:1 models were mixed across practice settings. Organization restrictions, time commitment,staffing and varied curriculum were identified as the main barriers to participation in clinical education.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education

While 2:1 models and 6-12 month experiences may be viable models for some practice settings, programs must recognize that these models may not be supported by all clinicians, conducive to all settings, or in the best interest of all students if we are attempting to prepare students for a lifetime of clinical practice across a variety of practice settings. When determining best practice in clinical education all vested parties must be considered. Clinician support is crucial to the success of any clinical education curriculum.Including clinicians in discussions on clinical education is essential to assure a mutually beneficial experience for students and clinical instructors, while also determining best practice for preparing the next generation of physical therapists.


1. Mai J, Thiele A, O’Dell B, Kruse B, Vaassen M, Priest A. Utilization of an integrated clinical experience in a physical therapist education program. J Phys Ther Educ. 2013;27:25-32.
2. Hakim E, Moffat M, Becker E, Bell K, Manal T, Schmitt L, Ciolek C. Application of educational theory and evidence in support of an integrated model of clinical education. J Phys Ther Educ. 2014;28:13-20.
3. Rapport M, Kelly K, Hankin T, Rodriguez J, Tomlinson S. A shared vision for clinical education: the year-long internship. J Phys Ther Educ. 2014;28:22-29.
4. Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Curriculum. 2012-2013 Fact Sheet Aggregate_Program_Data/AggregateProgramData_PTPrograms.pdf. 2013. March 27, 2014. Date Accessed July 18, 2015.
5. Lekkas P, Larsen T, Kumar S, et al. No model of clinical education for physiotherapy students is superior to another: a systematic review. Aust J Physiother. 2007;53(1):19-28.
6. Triggs Nemshick M, Shepard KF. Physical therapy clinical education in a 2:1 student-instructor education model. Phys Ther. 1996;76:968-981.
7. Sevenhuysen S, Farlie MK, Keating JL, Haines TP, Molloy E. Physiotherapy students and clinical educators perceive several ways in which incorporating peer-assisted learning could improve clinical placements: a qualitative study. Physiother. 2015;61(2):87-92.
8. Sevenhuysen S, Skinner E, Farlie M, et al. Educators and students prefer traditional clinical education to a peer-assisted learning model, despite similar student performance outcomes: a randomised trial. Physiother. 2014;60(4):209-216.
9. Strohschein J, Hagler P, May L. Assessing the need for change in clinical education practices. Phys Ther. 2002;82(2):160-72.
10. Jette DU, Nelson L, Palaima M, Wetherbee E. How Do we improve quality in clinical education? Examination of structures, processes, and outcomes. J Phys Ther Educ. 2014;28:6-12.
11. Hall M, Poth C, Manns P, Beaupre L. To Supervise or Not to Supervise a Physical Therapist Student: A National Survey of Canadian Physical Therapists. J Phys Ther Educ. 2015;29(3):58-67.

BACK to Abstract Results

  • Control #: 2752233
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2017
  • Authors: Dr. Lori Madiara, Jared Barilla, Mark Fuse, Alexa Nisiotis
  • Keywords:

BACK to Abstract Results