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Abstract

Introduction: The shift to telehealth exposed gaps in our understanding of how physical therapy students perceive patient assessment in a remote situation using the examination component of the patient/client management (PCM) model. The purpose of the study was to compare Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students’ self-efficacy performing patient assessment using the examination component of the PCM model using telehealth compared with conventional examination. To achieve the purpose of this study, the Physical Therapist Self-Efficacy (PTSE) scale was used. More specifically, self-efficacy in clinical reasoning was measured using the following items: (1) PTSE total score (2) performance of tests and measures, (3) determining when to refer to another practitioner, and (4) screening for primary medical disease.

Methods: A survey-based descriptive and exploratory repeated measures design was used, with surveys distributed to entry-level DPT students during their clinical experiences in the United States during the Fall 2020 semester. A convenience sample of 35 second- and third-year entry-level DPT students who reported provided both telehealth and traditional examinations during clinical experiences was used. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to evaluate within group differences comparing student self-efficacy using telehealth and conventional examination.

Results: Wilcoxon sign ranks revealed statistically significant differences in self-efficacy scores of students conducting patient assessment using telehealth compared to conventional examination. More specifically, scores for telehealth were lower (P < 0.001) compared to conventional examination in PTSE total score, performance of tests and measures, determining when to refer to another practitioner, and medical screening for primary disease.

Discussion: Doctor of Physical Therapy students’ self-efficacy was lower when providing telehealth across all PTSE questions pertaining to the examination component of the PCM model. Exploring telehealth content and sequence in entry-level physical therapy curriculum may help students feel more prepared to perform telehealth examination.

Key words: Examination, Physical therapy, Self-efficacy, Students, Telehealth.

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