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Clinical education recommendations during this crisis

Apr 7, 2020

Dear Clinical Education Community,

Our organizations are reaching out to the collective clinical education community amidst this very challenging time to share some recommendations we can all consider to help each other through. Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants in the clinical settings are on the frontline of healthcare facing unprecedented challenges. Please know that your academic partners thank you for your dedicated service and will assist you in any way we can as we navigate through these uncertain times.

At this time, many but not all clinical education programs are on hold by either the clinic site or academic program, or both. While this has definitely created disruptions, it has also provided opportunities for communication, collaboration, understanding and resilience. Some clinic sites have continued to support students and have even “re-homed” displaced students to ensure patient care continues and students can reach graduation on time.

As each stakeholder determines what is in the best interest of their patients, staff, faculty and students, your national organizations asks our clinical education community to consider the following recommendations as we work together in the coming months:

Voluntary uniform mailing date:

  • Extend deadlines for returning the March 1 mailing to allow clinic sites to navigate the current state and assess their resources for clinical education. 
  • Maintain regular communication across the academic-clinical partnership to share information about changes in 2021 clinical dates due to delays in academic coursework. 

Capacity for rescheduling cancelled and/or delayed clinical education experiences:

  • Academic programs: Please consider how much of your clinical education curriculum MUST be rescheduled to meet program objectives and CAPTE standards - i.e. seriously evaluate your clinical education curriculum on a need to do vs. nice to do basis.

  • Clinic sites: Whenever you are able to take students, please evaluate your maximum capacity and offer as many placements as you can comfortably handle. If you have clinicians who have been thinking about taking students or clinical instructors that have considered trying the 2:1 student-clinical instructor model – now is the perfect time to jump in!

  • Regional consortia: Please engage in open conversations to develop innovative ways to manage your clinical education calendar revisions. Working together regionally to make informed decisions about rescheduling placements may reduce how many clinical experiences end up “stacked” on top of each other.

Also, consider sharing resources including information about available or “released” clinical placements to ensure offered clinical experiences do not go unused. 

In addition to our suggestions, we encourage all clinical education stakeholders to share their ideas and questions on our national discussion boards:

While the immediate impact of COVID 19 may resolve in the next few months, we are cognizant of the ramifications it may have for additional months to come. Academic faculty are considering short-term and long-term changes to didactic and clinical education curricula to ensure that educational needs of PT and PTA students are met. While we are committed to meeting the needs of the students and recognize the implications of delaying graduation, responsibility to ensure quality preparation of all students to enter into clinical practice remains.

We thank the clinical faculty for all of your efforts thus far and the academic faculty for your responsiveness and flexibility in such times of uncertainty. We look forward to working together to rise above one of the greatest challenges in PT and PTA education. 


Carol Beckel, PT, PhD and Karen Bock, PT, MPT
Co-Chairs of Clinical Education Special Interest Group (CE SIG) – Academy of Physical Therapy Education (APTE)

Janice Howman PT, DPT, Med; Tawna Wilkinson, PT, DPT, PhD; and Jamie Bayliss, PT, MPT, DHSC
National Consortium of Clinical Education (NCCE) Leadership TeamAmerican Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT)

Jennifer Jewell, PT, DPT
Chair of Physical Therapist Assistant Educators Special Interest Group (PTAE SIG) - Academy of Physical Therapy Education (APTE)


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