Impact of an integrated clinical experience on Doctor of Physical Therapy students: a qualitative study

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Alice Hamilton
Gabriele Moriello
Julie Bush
Michelle Nunno-Evans
Shannon Schoellig
Nancy Hollins


Purpose: Integrated Clinical Education (ICE) complements didactic material within educational programs, providing an in- person, hands-on experience in coordination with traditional instruction. Different models of ICE are described in the literature, which consists primarily of descriptions and program assessments of these experiences. The purpose of this study was to enhance the literature by applying rigorous methodology to gain a rich understanding of the student’s perspective of the process and impact of ICE on Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students working with older adults, a population not yet rigorously studied.

Methods: A convenience sample of 19 DPT students participated in this study. A descriptive phenomenological approach obtained the perspectives of DPT students engaged in this ICE. Researchers conducted six focus groups using a video chat format following the ICE.

Results: Five themes emerged from the thematic analysis of focus group transcriptions: transformation, circular learning, role of relationships, rollercoaster of emotions, and perceived perks for older adults through the students’ perspective.

Conclusion: Findings are consistent with the literature and support ICE as a complement to didactic learning, especially for those skills that are challenging to teach in the classroom. This study added to the literature by identifying relationship building and circular learning as essential components of ICE. Students also identified and resolved implicit biases previously held about older adults. Further research is warranted to deepen an understanding of these findings, with a mixed-method approach to gather quantitative data to link the ICE process with outcomes.


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Article Details

education, integrated clinical education, ICE, Doctor of Physical Therapy students
Original Research Articles
How to Cite
Hamilton, A., Moriello, G., Bush, J., Nunno-Evans, M., Schoellig, S., & Hollins, N. (2023). Impact of an integrated clinical experience on Doctor of Physical Therapy students: a qualitative study. The Journal of Clinical Education in Physical Therapy, 5.