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Abstract

Purpose: This paper describes the development, implementation, and outcomes of two courses for entry-level, master’s degree earning physical therapist students. The courses were designed to address perceived barriers to early clinical education experiences, and to proactively provide appropriate structure for the imminent transition to a clinical doctoral degree curriculum. Methods: The courses were conducted one full-day/week during the first and third terms of the curriculum. A variety of clinical sites were utilized. Students passed competencies for skills appropriate for physical therapy aides prior to the onset of the clinical education course. During clinical assignments they performed those duties, and also completed specific learning activities designed to enhance coursework from the academic setting while minimizing demands on clinicians. Students completed worksheets designed specifically for each activity and attended synthesis seminars led by academicians at the university. Results: Assessments conducted through written course evaluations and focus groups with a subset of students, clinical instructors, and academic instructors indicated that overall the courses met our objectives. Benefits and challenges were identified. Discussion: Although early clinical education experiences are important for progressive development of students’ skills, these experiences pose challenges, particularly related to increased productivity demands on clinicians. Summary: Courses described in this article provided effective early clinical education experience while largely shifting responsibility for contextualization of learning from clinicians to academicians. As some allied health professions transition to doctoral level education, this model allows academic instructors to become more responsible for student learning in the clinical setting.

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