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Abstract

Purpose: This paper describes a self-contained model of integrated clinical experiences (ICEs) that take place during the academic portion of an entry-level physical therapist education program in a campus onsite clinic. Description of Model: Students participate in ICEs for three consecutive semesters. Students provide pro bono physical therapy services to individuals with impairments, functional limitations, or changes in physical function resulting from a variety of health conditions. In addition, students participate in an exercise/wellness program for individuals who wish to improve or maintain their current levels of fitness. The first ICE consists of second-year students observing/assisting third-year students in the onsite clinic with basic patient care skills and participation in an exercise/wellness program. Students in the second and third ICEs provide ongoing one-on-one skilled therapy for individuals with neurological or musculoskeletal diagnoses. Results: Feedback obtained from onsite clinical instructors, core academic faculty, students, and patients receiving care in the onsite clinic through group debriefings, questionnaires, and interviews is used to assess students’ readiness for full-time internships and effectiveness of the ICEs. The feedback reveals that the ICEs are meeting their intended goals. Category ratings in the “red flag” areas of the Clinical Performance Instrument (CPI) are consistently above expected levels for students completing their first full-time clinical internship. In addition, patients receiving care in the onsite clinic report a high level of satisfaction with the care provided. Conclusion/Possible Recommendations: This model provides students with an opportunity to gain clinical confidence in a realistic setting while reinforcing concepts presented in academic coursework. Providing ICEs on campus decreases reliance on clinical facilities and allows for academic program oversight of the quality of the learning experiences and early identification of students who have deficits in clinical skills and/or academic knowledge. The learning experiences provided in the onsite clinic give students a transitional experience that helps them benefit more fully from full-time internships. A potential challenge to this model is finding the space and financial resources needed to make it viable.

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