The Impact of COVID-19 on Physical Therapy Clinical Education Experiences in Florida

Stephanie M. Svoboda, Jason Kostrna, Patrick Pabian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction. Full-time clinical education experiences (CEEs) constitute a significant component of entry-level physical therapy education. COVID-19 challenged clinical education throughout the country by affecting the availability of CEEs. Review of Literature. Research suggested that the number of clinical education spots available would stay the same. By contrast, the number of students enrolling in physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) education programs continues to rise. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and faculty expressed concerns about the lack of student readiness and the availability of CEEs. The purpose of this study was to examine prepandemic factors that influenced the number of CEE slots available in Florida and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on slot availability. Furthermore, researchers sought to identify factors that prevented a return to prepandemic levels of CEE spot offerings and recognize solutions to overcome those barriers. Finally, the researchers aimed to pinpoint suggestions to enhance collaborations between the clinical sites and physical therapy education programs. Subjects. Forty-eight site coordinators of clinical education (SCCEs) from various settings and regions in Florida completed the survey. Methods. An online survey was distributed to Florida SCCEs to ascertain their perceptions on how COVID-19 influenced clinical education. The researchers used descriptive and inferential statistics to analyze the data. Results. Clinical instructor (CI) volunteerism was the primary determinant of CEE spots available before the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of CEE spots was reduced for both PT and PTA education programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the PTA slots returned to their baseline from 2019, the PT placements remained significantly lower in 2021. Social distancing and CI availability had the most considerable impact on CEE offerings. Site coordinators of clinical education also suggested that the greatest supports needed from the academic institutions were educating students on COVID-19 prevention and providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to students for their CEEs. This article also offers suggested incentives that academic sites can provide their clinical partners, such as in-services earning continuing education units, to enhance their participation in clinical education. Discussion and Conclusion. All clinical education stakeholders must collaborate to provide students with the required clinical educational opportunities. Academic sites should continue to provide support, training, and incentives to CIs to enhance participation from clinical education sites. Educational programs must add content about COVID-19 to their curriculum and consider providing students with PPE during their rotations to restore the number of CEEs post-COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-226
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physical Therapy Education
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Clinical education
  • Site coordinators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Policy

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