Background: Clinical education placements for students enrolled in healthcare programs were abruptly upended in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Programs were faced with decisions of how to mitigate substantive challenges due to an unforeseen pandemic within timeframes that would align with curricular sequences and graduation dates. Schools quickly modified curriculum formats, implemented alternative teaching and learning instruction and developed safety protocols to protect students, clinical faculty, and patients. Purpose: The aim of this study explored the strategies employed by one physical therapy school’s clinical education team, which resulted in successful completion of clinical course requirements and on-time graduation. Method: Data was collected on a single cohort of eighty (n=80) students who experienced changes in the timing, location, and/or progression of their clinical experiences due to COVID-19 related complications. The use of innovative clinically-oriented teaching strategies including web-based patient case simulation, virtual grand rounds, and other creative learning activities effectively supported student engagement both in and outside of clinical settings. Alternative learning strategies provided students the opportunity to progress through the clinical education curriculum, meet educational objectives, and satisfy the standard requirements by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Performance on the Clinical Performance Instrument (CPI) for the cohort of students affected by COVID-19 was compared to a cohort from 2019 who were not affected by COVID-19 related issues. Results: Analysis using Mann Whitney U statistics showed there were no significant differences in performance on the CPI between the groups (p=0.874). Conclusion: Looking forward, there is an opportunity for schools to build on what was learned during the pandemic and apply those strategies to other non-pandemic related situations with successful outcomes. Innovative teaching and learning strategies can help to bridge the gap of time out of clinic for any student who may experience an interruption in clinical education due to injury, illness, or other situation, and can provide a way for students to progress successfully through their physical therapy education.
The authors would like to thank Dr. Heidi Eigsti, PT, PhD, PCS for her support with statistical analysis and Ms. Marybeth Tscherpel her strong contribution in clinical education.
Davis AM, LaPorta L, Mulligan NF, Carmel S, Thomas S, O'Dell D. Quality Delivered: How a Pandemic Fostered Innovation and Creative Solutions in Clinical Education. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. 2022 Jun 29;20(3), Article 18.