Purpose/ Hypothesis: As physical therapy (PT) students advance through an entry-level professional program, clinical decision making skills improve, though self-confidence in treating individuals with neurological impairments does not. One technique to improve PT student self-confidence with this population is the addition of experiential learning opportunities, which uses direct student interaction with community volunteers to simulate clinical application of didactic material. The purpose of this study was to explore the effect of experiential learning using community participants who were neurologically-involved, on PT students’ perceived self-confidence. It was hypothesized that PT students would report greater levels of self-confidence in their neurological patient management skills following the 4 week experience.
Number of subjects: 129
Materials/ Methods: As part of their curriculum, PT students at the University of St. Augustine are required to participate in Patient Oriented Integrated Neurological Treatment (POINT) labs in both their final neuromuscular and pediatric classes. The POINT labs are divided into an adult and pediatric section, requiring the students to evaluate and treat a volunteer from both sections once weekly for 4 weeks. A survey study was conducted over 3 semesters to assess students' perception in how confident they felt with evaluation and treatment of neurologically involved people across the lifespan. PT students (N = 129) were given the survey immediately prior to the start of the first POINT lab. The survey contained 10 questions and took 5 minutes to complete. The same survey was given to the PT students immediately after the final POINT lab.
Results: Paired samples t-test was performed on each student's summed pretest and posttest scores. On average, students reported more self- confidence in the posttest survey, -7.91, BCa 95% CI [-8.98, -6.75], which was significant t(128) = -13.841, p<.001, and represented a large effect size, d = 1.70, indicating increased self-confidence after the POINT labs. Principal access factor analysis was conducted on the 10-item questionnaire. The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure varied the sampling adequacy for the analysis, KMO = .876. Eigenvalues were obtained for each factor in the data. Two factors had eigenvalues over Kaiser’s criterion of 1, and in combination explained 35.72% of the variance. We retained two factors based on the scree plot and Kaiser’s criterion. All items in the first factor had high reliabilities, Cronbach’s a = .848 and the items in the second factor had a good reliability, Cronbach’s a = .743.
Conclusions: These findings are consistent with our hypothesis that PT students perceive greater levels of confidence in their neurological patient management following the POINT lab experience.
Clinical Relevance: Experiential learning with neurologically involved community participants is an effective strategy to prepare students for their clinical internships. This study supports the use of a 4 week POINT lab in entry-level professional PT curriculum.
Barta K, Flores M, Edwards A. Experiential Learning Enhances Physical Therapist Student Confidence in Management of Neurologically-Involved Adults and Children. 2017.