Context: Students in health care often describe their feelings of self-inadequacy in clinical skills and report these feelings abate with experience.
Objective: To determine whether early contextual learning experiences can improve entry-level student physical therapists’ self-perceived level of clinical preparedness.
Design: A pair-wise comparison of pre vs. post intervention. Survey of students self-perceived level of clinical preparedness before and after a series of three planned small group contextual learning experiences involving the assessment of actual hospital patients.
Setting: Academic institution and associated medical center
Participants: Thirty-nine first-year student cohort in the 10th month of a 36-month entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program who had not yet received clinical experience utilizing subjects other than classmates or program associated faculty.
Results: Thirty-three (33) subjects completed the pre and post-survey (33/39) for a response rate of 84.6%. Subjects rated both their own personal abilities (p< .001) and the clinical abilities of their classmates (p<.001) as higher following the intervention, indicating that students in an entry-level DPT program have improved perception of their own and of their classmates’ clinical preparedness when employing hospital patients prior to their first clinical affiliation.
Conclusions: Early curriculum contextual learning in physical therapist education is valuable in improving student ratings of clinical self-preparedness and of fellow classmates’ readiness to enter the clinic. Additionally, students recognize the benefits provided by contextual learning.