Department of Physical Therapy Student Theses, Dissertations and Capstones

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Physical Therapy


College of Health Care Sciences - Physical Therapy Department

First Advisor

Kimberly W Coleman-Ferreira

Publication Date / Copyright Date



Nova Southeastern University. College of Health Care Sciences.


Purpose: The profession of physical therapy uses physical therapist clinical instructors to educate students in the clinical education portion of the curriculum. The requirements to become a clinical instructor are minimal and non- specific regarding formal training and development. A variety of educational opportunities is available to clinical instructors, but the evidence in the physical therapy literature is conflicting regarding the effectiveness of these programs. Additionally, no previous research regarding the meaning of competence, nor the pathway to achieving competence as a clinical instructor was found. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to describe the experience of achieving competence as perceived by clinical instructors who have chosen different paths toward becoming effective CIs. Methods: This study utilized phenomenological methodology to explore the meaning of clinical instructor competence and the experience of achieving competence from the perspectives of the clinical instructors themselves. Data was collected through the use of focus groups, semi-structured interviews and written statements. Data was analyzed for themes using thematic analysis. Participants: A purposive sample of twenty-nine physical therapist clinical instructors was recruited to participate in five focus groups, each group consisted of 5-7 participants. Results: An overarching theme of “Empowerment” emerged from the data analysis of the transcriptions and field notes. This overarching theme was supported by eight themes which resonated across the five focus groups. These themes were 1: The meaning of competence, 2: “My first student”, 3: Finding the way, 4: Feeling supported, 5: A fork in the road, 6: Barriers to achieving competence, 7: The “ah-ha” moment, 8: “Ongoing road”. Conclusion: The results of this study provide a description and interpretation of the meaning of clinical instructor competence and the journey of achieving competence. These findings can inform and empower clinical instructors on their own journey to competence. CCCEs may also find a deeper awareness of the meaning of competence and the importance of providing support for CIs. The physical therapy education community and it’s professional bodies can also be informed by these findings in establishing a definition of clinical instructor competence. As well as give direction to future efforts and programs designed to prepare clinicians to effectively educate students in the clinic setting.


Physical Therapy


Health and environmental sciences, Education, Clinical education, Clinical instructor, Competence, Phenomenology, Physical therapist

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