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Contemporary Role and Responsibilities of the Director of Clinical Education

A National Qualitative Study

McCallum, Christine, PT, PhD; Engelhard, Chalee, PT, EdD, MBA, GCS Emeritus; Applebaum, Donna, PT, DPT; Teglia, Valerie, PT, DPT

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: December 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 4 - p 312–324
doi: 10.1097/JTE.0000000000000049
Research Report

Introduction. Clinical education is of broad and current interest topic in physical therapist (PT) education today. The director of clinical education (DCE) is the core faculty member responsible for the components of the clinical education (CE) curriculum. Previous work has questioned whether the position would be a “dinosaur or a rising phoenix”. The objectives of this study was to comprehensively examine the full scope of the role and responsibilities of the DCE.

Methods. A non-experimental, qualitative descriptive study design was used. A constructivist theoretical framework guided the work. Eleven teams of DCEs and program directors (PD) participated in semi-structured interviews. Onsite interviews were conducted by trained interviewers and transcribed verbatim for analysis. A process of thematic analysis was used to develop results.

Results. Five themes and 19 subthemes were developed. The DCE was shown to be a value-added position in professional physical therapist programs, whose role and responsibilities are responsive to both internal and external factors to the academy. There is an evolutionary process to the development of a DCE within the academy. A common vision was shared by DCEs and PDs about the future direction of the DCE in today's clinical education marketplace.

Discussion. The DCE is a central player in moving academic physical therapist education forward. The patterns of current DCE practice may shed light on plausible reasons for challenges association with the CE atmosphere. Study limitations could include interview bias and bias in analysis.

Conclusion. The contemporary role and responsibilities of the DCE were identified, with recommendations for additional studies to enhance the understanding of the DCE in today's academic and clinical environment.

Christine McCallum is the professor and director of clinical education in the Physical Therapy Program at the Walsh University, School of Behavioral and Health Sciences, 2020 East Maple Street, North Canton, OH 44720 ( Please address all correspondence to Christine McCallum.

Chalee Engelhard is the assistant professor and director of clinical education at the College of Allied Health Sciences, University of Cincinnati.

Donna Applebaum is the assistant professor and director of clinical education at MGH Institute of Health Professions.

Valerie Teglia is the associate professor and director of clinical education at Mount Saint Mary's University.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

Received December 11, 2017

Accepted March 04, 2018

Copyright2018 (C) Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA
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