Tips to Help You Ace Your Clinicals
3 minute read
For many physical therapy students, clinical rotations allow them to practice the skills they've learned in the classroom, while also exposing them to various practice settings.
As a student, I was fortunate to have 4 excellent clinical rotations, and I'm now 4 years into a career at one of those same sites. Now, as a clinician, I am happy to serve as a clinical instructor (CI) for students of my own.
Here are my tips to help you be successful during your clinical rotations:
Do your homework. While taking a break from classes can be a relief, remember that you still have work to do while on clinicals. Bring a notebook with you and keep track of questions that you have for your CI and things that you need to research at home. Take advantage of this time in your life to learn as much as you can without the burden of homework and studying, and impress your CI by being as knowledgeable as possible about the patients you're treating.
Make use of downtime. In between patients or during gaps in your schedule, have a plan for different techniques that you want to practice. After you graduate and are out on your own, you won't have anyone checking your skills, so take advantage of having supervision and guidance while you can. Practice manual skills you're not comfortable trying out on patients, or learn additional techniques beyond what you've seen in school. If you can learn new things during clinicals, it will make you a more rounded practitioner and set you apart from other new graduates.
Get to know the patients. One of the best compliments that you can receive as a student is to be well-liked by patients. As a student, you may not have the skills or experience to be remembered by patients as an excellent clinician, but you can be known for being personable and a good communicator. One of the best indicators that I've had a successful student is when patients miss them after their clinical has ended.
Network with the other clinicians. As a student I made a point to get to know clinicians other than my CI. At my third clinical site when I officially got hired, I already knew and felt comfortable with everyone. Spending time with other therapists can give insight into other ways to practice, since no 2 clinicians practice identically. Additionally, I have a better understanding of how doctors, nurses, and others function on the health care team because I made a point of working with them and shadowing them during my time as a student. These experiences make me a stronger link in the allied health team.
Don't be afraid to be vulnerable. Your CI doesn't expect you to be a perfect clinician. During one clinical, I flubbed screening a patient during an evaluation and my CI had to step in and take over. When I went home, I practiced doing screens all night. The next day, I made up for the mistake when I was able to come in and independently perform a screen. Overall, I made the impression of being a hard worker who was eager to improve, learn, and be open to feedback. Even if you get something wrong, the most important thing is to accept the mistake, take feedback, and remember you're still a student learning and growing as a future physical therapist.
Good luck on your clinicals!
Jasmine Marcus PT, DPT, is a practicing clinician in New York. You can connect with her through her website, on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.