Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2009


Context: Students in health care often describe their feelings of self-inadequacy in clinical skills and report these feelings abate with experience.

Objective: To determine whether early contextual learning experiences can improve entry-level student physical therapists’ self-perceived level of clinical preparedness.

Design: A pair-wise comparison of pre vs. post intervention. Survey of students self-perceived level of clinical preparedness before and after a series of three planned small group contextual learning experiences involving the assessment of actual hospital patients.

Setting: Academic institution and associated medical center

Participants: Thirty-nine first-year student cohort in the 10th month of a 36-month entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program who had not yet received clinical experience utilizing subjects other than classmates or program associated faculty.

Results: Thirty-three (33) subjects completed the pre and post-survey (33/39) for a response rate of 84.6%. Subjects rated both their own personal abilities (p< .001) and the clinical abilities of their classmates (p<.001) as higher following the intervention, indicating that students in an entry-level DPT program have improved perception of their own and of their classmates’ clinical preparedness when employing hospital patients prior to their first clinical affiliation.

Conclusions: Early curriculum contextual learning in physical therapist education is valuable in improving student ratings of clinical self-preparedness and of fellow classmates’ readiness to enter the clinic. Additionally, students recognize the benefits provided by contextual learning.


Brueilly KE, Nelson TK, Gravano TN, Kroll PG. (2009). The Effect of early contextual learning on student physical therapists’ self-perceived level of clinical preparedness. Acute Care Perspectives, 18(3), 6-13.

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