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Physical Therapy Clinical Educators

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Ideas for Engaging Students in the Clinical Site

Listed below are several ideas of things to do when:

  • Your patient census is low
  • Your student needs a challenge
  • The clinical instructor is absent

An Observation Experience

Arrange for the student to observe or work with other health care professionals. In addition to observing, have the student write down his/her reflections on the experience. Include guidelines for the reflection. For example, the clinical instructor could ask the student to:

  • Discuss three things learned from the experience
  • Compare/contrast to physical therapy service, as appropriate
  • Elaborate on the contributions of this health care professional to patient care

Examples of possible observation experiences:

  • Physical therapists with specialized skills (NICU, women’s health, electro-diagnosis, wound care, vestibular therapy, hand therapy, manual therapy, pediatrics, geriatrics, neurological examination and/or interventions, cardiopulmonary examination and/or interventions, wellness/prevention, functional capacity examination, aquatic therapy, etc.)
  • Other therapies (occupational, speech, respiratory, recreational, art, music, etc.)
  • Child Life Specialist
  • Nursing – follow the charge or a staff nurse
  • Radiology – view procedures that can be seen on a screen, like MBS, ultrasound, Doppler scan, etc.
  • Surgery
  • Athletic training
  • Orthotics/prosthetics
  • Physician office
  • Specialty clinics
  • Social services
    • Discharge planning
    • Case management
    • Social worker

Examples of administrative/financial/business services professionals to consider for observation:

  • Department administrator or chief clinical officer
  • Coding/billing department
  • Budget personnel and/or chief financial officer

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An Individual Project

Some possible projects include: 

  • Complete the Clinical Site Information Form (CSIF) for your site. This would allow the student to learn vital information about your service, as well as provide future students with the information that assists them to make appropriate choices in clinical sites.
  • Investigate social service options in the area. This would allow the student to become familiar with services that could benefit patients at discharge. The student could compile the findings in a notebook or a computer file that is accessible to the staff with information about the following topics:
    • Transportation
    • Home modifications
    • Nutritional support
    • Medical services
    • Vocational rehabilitation/job training
    • Respite services for care givers
    • Durable medical equipment providers
    • Home health providers
    • Senior adult services
    • Pediatric services
    • Other
  • Peer/chart review. Have the student review documentation of staff therapists using a standardized form. If you do not have a form, then work with the student to create one that will accurately depict the expectations of your site.
  • Collect and/or summarize current research articles. Have the student create a notebook or file folder with articles or links to full text articles. Ask the student to summarize and rate the articles based on a rating scale that is pertinent to your site. Articles could focus on:
    • Typical tests and measures, outcome measures, clinical prediction rules
    • Typical diagnoses (examination procedures and/or Interventions/protocols)

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Department or Office Initiatives

  • Involve the student in a new or ongoing department project:
    • Health/wellness fair for the facility’s staff or the community
    • Marketing
    • New employee and/or student orientation to the site 
    • Creation of or update to the student handbook/guide to the site that includes the documents that are necessary and of interest to students
    • Organization of a journal club to discuss current research
  • Plan an outing for patients or a special day for patients and/or staff:
    • Olympics
    • First day of the season (winter, spring, summer, fall)
    • Physical Therapy Month
    • May Day
    • Mother’s, Father’s or Grandparent’s Day
    • Special remembrance days like Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Flag Day
    • Monthly birthday celebration
    • Appreciation day for support personnel

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