Department of Physical Therapy Student Theses, Dissertations and Capstones

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Physical Therapy

Copyright Statement

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for use solely by faculty, students, and staff of Nova Southeastern University. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, now known or later developed, including but not limited to photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author or the publisher.


College of Health Care Sciences - Physical Therapy Department

First Advisor

Melissa M Tovin

Second Advisor

Nicki Silberman

Third Advisor

Shari Rone-Adams

Publication Date / Copyright Date



Nova Southeastern University


Introduction and Review of the Literature. The academic community has made it priority to determine best practice in the clinical education (CE) of Physical Therapist (PT) students. The perspective of various stakeholders has been considered inthe profession’s pursuit of excellence. Previous research highlighting the characteristics of expert clinicians and clinicalinstructors in physical therapy has served as a model for those who strive for excellence. The student and critical stakeholder, however, has not been given the opportunity to be heard. To date, no literature has explored the experience of PT student who demonstrate excellence. This study aims to understand the lived experience of the exemplary PT student in CE.

Participants. A sample of 26 students from across the United States who were in their terminal clinical experience or within six months of graduation were recruited.

Methods. This study utilized a phenomenological methodology. Data was collected via one-on-one semi-structured interviews. Interviews were analyzed using constant comparison. The trustworthiness of the findings was supported through the use ofpeer reviewing, thick description, and member checking.

Results. One overarching and nine themes represent the lived experience of the exemplary student. A desire to serve was the overarching theme of the study. The nine themes include: 1. Being empathetic, 2. Being adaptable, 3. Being receptive to and seeking feedback, 4. Being reflective in clinical practice, 5. Using the past experiences to inform current performance, 6. Embracing challenges and seeking opportunities, 7. Engaging in a collaborative relationship with their CI, 8. Being skilled at self-care, and 9. Coming into my own as a PT.

Discussion and Conclusion. This study’s findings student echo that of contemporary research related to being internally motivated, having a growth mindset, and being resilient. The results of this study can be used to inform admissions, studentpreparation for clinical practice, and professional development training in professional physical therapy programs.


Physical Therapy


Education, Exemplary, Health Sciences, physical therapist student, Physical Therapy, Qualitative research