Physical therapists’ and physical therapist assistants’ perceptions of the benefits and challenges of supervising students


Todd Davenport: 0000-0001-5772-7727


Physical Therapy


Purpose: Clinical education is a necessary and fundamental component of Physical Therapist (PT) education. Due to substantial demands for student placements at clinical sites, it is necessary that programs continually develop relationships with clinicians to ensure enough placement offers in a variety of settings to meet students’ needs. It is therefore important to consider PT perceptions of the benefits and challenges of supervising students so that the program-clinical site relationship can be further strengthened, resulting in more placement offers. The purpose of this research was to assess PT perceptions of the challenges and benefits of supervising students.

Methods/Description: An online survey was distributed to a list of Site Coordinators of Clinical Education (SCCEs), identified by the Northern California Clinical Education Consortium. SCCEs were emailed the survey with instructions to forward them to experienced Clinical Instructors (CIs) at their respective organizations for voluntary participation. SCCEs were also invited to voluntarily participate in the survey. Ninety-eight PTs and one PTA (Physical Therapist Assistant) completed the voluntary, anonymous survey. The questionnaire included 1) 16 demographic questions, 2) 34 yes/no or Likert-scale based questions and 3) two open-ended questions to assess perceptions of supervising students. SPSS was used to perform quantitative data analysis and QDA miner lite program was employed for thematic analysis.

Results/Outcomes: Ninety-nine (98 PT, 1 PTA) CIs participated in the survey. For perceived benefits, 92% agreed serving as a CI allowed them to give back to the profession, and 85% agreed that serving as a CI was rewarding. In addition, 90% agreed that being a CI encouraged them to re-assess their practice decisions. On the other hand, 77% reported they would serve as a CI if they had 1-2 hours per week of non-patient care time to mentor the student. Furthermore, 64% said they would serve as a CI if they had extra hours in the first 2 weeks for student on-boarding Overall, 89% did not feel unprepared to supervise a student and only 18% reported feeling stressed when supervising students. Thematic analysis identified three major themes: (1) CPI Tool: complexity and time needed to complete it, (2) Time: productivity and extra time needed to train students, (3) Student issues: professionalism and preparedness. Sub-analysis of these themes revealed that addressing CI issues could result in motivating more clinicians to be a CI.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Our findings indicate that experienced CIs perceive multiple benefits to supervising students with one significant challenge being the perceived lack of non-patient care time to onboard and mentor students. Thematic analysis suggests that a coordinated effort from the students, their schools, clinic managers and the professional organizations will result in creating a successful learning and teaching environment for the essential component of clinical education.

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Publication Date


Publication Title

2020 Education Leadership Conference


American Academy of Physical Therapy Education

Conference Dates

October 16-18, 2020

Conference Location


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