Entry level caseload expectations and perception of full caseload capability during student physical therapist terminal clinical experiences: A pilot study

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Erica Sherman
Karen Berg
Susan Ann Talley


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore expected student physical therapist (PT) full caseload expectations across and within clinical settings and identify factors Clinical Instructor’s (CI) routinely report as contributing to their assessment of a student’s ability to manage a full caseload.

Methods: A cross-sectional electronic survey design was used to collect data from CIs for student PTs in Michigan. A sample of convenience was utilized.

Results: CIs (n=128) from six settings participated in this study. Respondents reported 32% of their employers had established caseload expectations for new graduate and student PTs. Within an 8-hour day, CIs considered a full student caseload measured in billable units to be 26 in outpatient ortho, 22.5 in outpatient neuro, 29 in outpatient mixed, 17.5 in paediatric, 18.5 in acute care, and 21.9 in inpatient rehab settings. Within an 8-hour day, CIs considered a full student caseload measured in patients per day to be 8.8 in outpatient ortho, 6.9 in outpatient neuro, 8.5 in outpatient mixed, 5.4 in paediatric, 7.1 in acute care, and 4.5 in inpatient rehab settings. Student capability was considered by 80% of CIs when determining student caseload. CIs reported patient complexity and accuracy of clinical reasoning as the most influential in determining a student’s capability to manage a full caseload. The ability to implement and retain feedback was reported as least influential.

Conclusion: Most respondents indicated their site lacked defined and differing expectations for student PTs. The CIs consistently reported considering student capability of carrying a full caseload when making determinations of student performance on the CPI and were most influenced by patient complexity and clinical reasoning accuracy. CIs reported a range of full caseload productivity expectations for students both within and across settings, which may contribute to inconsistent assessment of student performance on the CPI.

A poster presentation of this work was presented at APTA Educational Leadership Conference 2019.


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Article Details

student physical therapist, caseload, assessment
Original Research Articles
How to Cite
Sherman, E., Berg, K., & Talley, S. A. (2021). Entry level caseload expectations and perception of full caseload capability during student physical therapist terminal clinical experiences: A pilot study. The Journal of Clinical Education in Physical Therapy, 3. https://doi.org/10.52214/jcept.v3.6006