Top 13 Points to Cover with Students Prior to Clinicals

Clinicals are a pivotal time in every PT student's development as a therapist, but in my experience as a CI I have learned just as much from my students as they have from me! I love being a CI, and the more I can prepare my students for clinicals before their first day the more success we both have. Covering these points prior to beginning clinicals will help you to start your new students off with a solid foundation, and foster a stronger professional relationship during your experience together.


1. Let them know what a normal week's schedule looks like.

How many days per week are your students expected to work? Which days each week? What will their standard daily schedule look like? Establishing their routine before day one will help them meet and exceed your expectations, and it will help them structure precious study time outside of clinicals.


2. Do you have an expectation that students work on weekends or holidays?

We all know that patients don't stop needing care just because the calendar says it's a Saturday or a holiday. Before your students make long weekend or spring break plans, establish the expectations for working on weekends and holidays so they can plan accordingly.


3. Let students know how lunch breaks work at your facility.

Do your therapists leave for lunch or brown bag it and eat at the facility, and how much time is allotted for lunch breaks? Do you expect students to document during lunch to get caught up and maintain productivity, or are they allowed to fully unplug during lunch time?


4. Do students need to complete any required paperwork ahead of time, such as consent/HIPPA/insurance forms?

Anything you can help your students complete ahead of time will make them feel more prepared for day 1. There is an overwhelming amount of information to keep up with at the beginning of clinicals, so getting a few things off of your students' minds in advance will allow them to be more focused on learning instead of paperwork.


5. Do you require a drug test and/or background check before clinicals begin?

If your facility requires either of these items before a student begins working, let your students know as much in advance as possible since it may take several days or weeks to process the results.


6. Set clear expectations about the required professional dress for students at your facility.

Does your facility require scrubs or business casual attire? Does hair need to be tied back, are tattoos allowed to be shown or must they be covered up? What is your policy on jewelry and nail grooming? Establish clear expectations so your students can plan accordingly and feel confident and professional on their first day.


7. What are the PPE requirements at your facility that students need to observe?

Does your facility provide the required PPE for students, or do they need to purchase specific items and bring them to work? Is any medical-grade mask allowed or do students need to be fitted for an N-95 respirator? Make sure students know exactly what is expected of them to keep themselves and their patients safe and healthy.


8. What does a normal caseload look like for your students?

This will depend on the type of facility you're working in, as well as the size of the staff and occupancy. Let the student know how many patients you will treat on average and how often you will see them, as well as what types of conditions are most commonly treated at your facility.


9. What is the standard productivity requirement for students at your facility?

How much flexibility does their schedule allow? Is documentation time included/accounted for in their regular schedule?


10. What are the most common outcome measures or special tests utilized in your facility?

These can be very specific to the practice setting. Joint specific special test in outpatient, the BERG balance test in acute rehab, or the 6-MWT in cardiac rehab for example. If your student can show up on day one knowing how to perform and score them, what the results mean, and how to use them in goal writing, then you will be able to hand them more independence earlier in the clinical.


11. What types of modalities are used in your facility?

Does the facility just utilize ice, compression, and heat? Are you an advocate for the use of E-stim and ultrasound? Do you use less common modalities like diathermy and iontophoresis? Allowing your student to re-familiarize themselves ahead of time with all the details and safety measures of the specific modalities will help them to be ready to assist with the use of them from day one.


12. What is the PT to PTA ratio? 

It is highly likely that your students will have had little to no experience with supervision of PTAs or significant professional interaction with other PTs on a peer to peer basis. It may be helpful to give the student a heads up on what these relationships look like and what the expectations are for supervision.


13. What documentation system will students be using?

Allowing students to familiarize themselves with documentation before you officially begin clinicals will give them an edge on productivity from the beginning, and allow them to focus on learning important treatment methods and techniques from you instead of worrying about how to document. If you can provide a template of your facility’s documentation system to students so they can practice.


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Use this link to download and print the Top 13 Points to Cover with Students Prior to Clinicals.

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