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The Optimal Length of Clinical Internship Experiences for Entry-Level Physical Therapist Students as Perceived by Center Coordinators of Clinical Education: A Pilot Study

Martorello, Laura, PT, MSPT, DPE

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: April 2006 - Volume 20 - Issue 1 - p 56–58

Background and Purpose. Clinical education represents a significant segment of the physical therapist education program curriculum and allows students to apply and integrate theory and didactic knowledge to the real world of practice. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of center coordinators of clinical education (CCCEs) with regard to the optimal length of full-time clinical education experience for PT students who have completed their first and final full-time clinical education experiences.

Case Description. A pilot study was conducted using an open-format questionnaire. The questionnaire was sent to CCCEs at clinical sites across the United States that currently have agreements with American International College (N = 273).

Results. A response rate of 57% was obtained. For students in their first full-time clinical education experience, an average of 7.3 ± 2.26 weeks was suggested, with a range of 3-16 weeks. For a student's final full-time clinical education experience, the average was 9.1 ± 2.09 weeks with a range of 5.5-16 weeks.

Discussion. The results of this survey support the current trends for those professional programs that require PT students to complete an 8-week clinical experience as part of their first experience. The results also demonstrated a bimodal split in the distribution between a 5-8-week full-time clinical experience and a 9-12-week clinical experience for a student's final clinical experience as expressed by the CCCEs. This study may assist the director of clinical education (DCE) and/or the academic coordinator of clinical education (ACCE) to develop a consensus on the optimal time for the development of skills in the clinical environment.

Laura Martorellois associate program administrator and assistant professor in the Division of Physical Therapy, American International College, 1000 State Street, Springfield, MA 01109 (

This survey study was reviewed by the Human Subjects Review Board at American International College and was categorized as exempt.

Received March 29, 2004, and accepted January 10, 2006.

Copyright2006 (C) Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA
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