Introduction: Evidence-based practice is a required component of student physical therapist education. Practice applying the five steps of evidence-based practice to patient care (formulate question, retrieve evidence, appraise evidence, integrate evidence, evaluate outcomes), most effectively performed during clinical education, must occur for students to become proficient. Clinical instructor use of evidence-based practice is essential to assure that student physical therapist practice occurs during clinical education. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess self-reported evidence-based practice use by physical therapy clinical instructors and examine whether an association exists between professional characteristics and evidence-based practice use. Methods: This study was a cross-sectional, descriptive study using an electronic survey to collect data on clinical instructor professional characteristics and evidence-based practice use. Results: Respondents included 376 physical therapists who were clinical instructors in the United States. Participant responses for frequency evidence-based practice steps use ranged from never to frequently. Specifically, respondents reported integrating evidence into clinical instruction: never 2.1% (n = 8); rarely 6.4% (n = 24); occasionally 13.3% (n = 50); sometimes 28.7% (n = 108); and frequently 49.5% (n = 186). There was no difference in evidence-based practice use as the result of age or highest degree. Respondents who were American Physical Therapy Association members or held an American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties certification reported using some of the evidence-based practice steps more frequently than those who were not. Discussion and Conclusion: Although the majority of respondents in this study reported using evidence-based practice to some extent, there was great variability. Student physical therapists may be exposed to evidence-based practice during clinical education since the majority of respondents, considering their role as clinical instructors, reported evidence-based practice use. However, exposure cannot be guaranteed for every student because some respondents reported never using evidence-based practice. Educational program use of supplemental learning activities during clinical experiences may facilitate student practice of all five steps of evidence-based practice during clinical education.

Author Bio(s)

  • Debra A. Bierwas PT, DPT, DHSc, is an Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education in the Physical Therapy program at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona.
  • Joan Leafman, PhD, is an Associate Professor at A.T. Still University in Mesa Arizona.
  • Lisa Wallace, PhD, MHR, is an adjunct faculty member in Health Sciences at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Arizona.
  • Donald K. Shaw PT, PhD, D.Min, FAACVR, is a Professor in Physical Therapy at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
  • Steven Fehrer, PT, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Physical Therapy at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona.


Greg Awarski and other staff from Liaison International provided valuable assistance in drawing the sample and sending the email request to participate in this study. Their efforts and support are greatly appreciated.




Submission Location


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