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Purpose: Many doctor of physical therapy (DPT) programs limited student clinical experiences, including integrated clinical experiences (ICEs), in 2020 due to the restrictions of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, without knowing how the abbreviated clinical exposure would influence student perceptions of psychomotor and interpersonal communication skill development. The purpose of this study was to determine if fewer ICEs resulted in a difference in acute care confidence or interpersonal communication skills for DPT students.
Methods: Two cohorts of DPT students completed surveys aimed to measure acute care confidence (Acute Care Confidence Survey [ACCS]) and interpersonal communication skills (Interpersonal Communication Questionnaire [ICQ]) pre- and post- ICE. Students in one of the cohorts completed half of their second ICE experience because of unexpected curricular changes, effectively decreasing their ICEs by 25%. Data was analyzed using paired t-tests and two-way repeated measures ANOVAs.
Results: There was a significant interaction on ACCS and ICQ by time. Students gained an average of approximately 440 points on the ACCS and 4.9 points on the ICQ over the course of both ICEs. However, there was not a statistically significant difference between cohort and either acute care confidence or interpersonal communication.
Conclusion: Curricular changes resulting in fewer ICEs did not appear to significantly influence student confidence in the acute care environment or with interpersonal communication skills. Students gained self-confidence in acute care practice and improved communication skills when involved in hands-on ICEs. These improvements were not seen during portions of the curriculum that did not involve inpatient experiences.
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