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Physical Therapist Student Learning Through Authentic Experiences in Management: One Program's Interpretation of Service Learning

Wilson, Jennifer E, PT, MBA; Collins, Jennifer E, PT, EdD, MPA

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: December 2006 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p 25–32

Background and Purpose. This article describes the implementation of a unique educational model for teaching management content explicitly utilizing experiential and service learning principles. It also highlights physical therapist student and faculty learning and growth that have occurred in the last 3 years as a result of implementing these strategies into the program's curriculum. This model was developed in an effort to meet the Nazareth College mission of community engagement, to achieve program goals of infusing more curricular integration and experiential learning into the program, and to enhance program objectives that were previously only met minimally.

Method/Model Description and Evaluation. In this model, physical therapist students assume dual roles as student clinicians and student managers in the same semester to provide physical therapy services in 3 notfor-profit on-campus and off-campus learning experiences. Data was collected each year through multiple means: course evaluations; a student satisfaction survey; end of semester feedback sessions, including reviews by both faculty and students; required reflective journaling; client satisfaction surveys; focus groups; and graduate surveys conducted 1 year post graduation.

Outcomes. Multiple methods of evaluation yielded the following outcomes: Student learning objectives were met and often exceeded; students identified and resolved management challenges; faculty learning occurred; community demand for services was greater than predicted; an appreciation for service learning as a teaching method improved; students defined views of “success”; and empowerment promoted professional development.

Discussion and Conclusion. Innovative experiential learning experiences were instrumental in building skills, such as leadership, teamwork, communication, marketing, finance, and conflict resolution in one program. Faculty, students, and community providers have gained an appreciation for experiential learning experiences and identified areas for growth and expansion. This model presents an opportunity for changing perspectives among physical therapy educators and physical therapy practitioners regarding management content in professional (entry-level) physical therapist education. The model has potential for replication in other programs, with modification for specific community needs.

Jennifer E Wilsonis assistant professor and manager of clinical operations and course coordinator for the Business of Physical Therapy course in the Physical Therapy Department at Nazareth College, 4245 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618 ( Please address all correspondence to Jennifer Wilson.

Jennifer E Collinsis associate professor and chair of the Physical Therapy Program at Nazareth College, 4245 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618 (

Received June 5, 2006, and accepted October 10, 2006.

Copyright2006 (C) Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA
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