Students who are preparing for an initial full time clinical experience often have many fears and unrealistic expectations. Faculty continually mentor and prepare these students for going out into the field, but feedback to clinical faculty has been that interaction with their peers having already completed clinical experiences is beneficial to students navigating this curriculum. Since anecdotal reports were consistent, this element of peer-mentoring was added to the Clinical Education Preparation portion of the DPT curriculum. For the more senior students, this opportunity would allow them to practice leadership, mentoring and professional development skills which are consistent with the process by which clinicians progress from novice to expert therapists. This trial experience was designed to assess whether both groups of students gained benefit from the experience of being a mentor or mentee.
The students involved in this activity were enrolled in a 3 year DPT program. The 2nd year DPT students were asked to prepare questions related to their fears about clinical education. The 3rd year DPT students (who had already completed 20 weeks of clinical eduation) were asked to be prepared to answer questions and share relevant personal advice pertaining to entering the first clinical experience. There were 48 2nd Year DPT (DPT2) Students and 56 3rd Year DPT (DPT3) Students in attendance. In addition, there were 3 DPT Faculty Facilitators.
All students were in a large meeting area. Three DPT faculty were present to explain and facilitate the event. DPT 2 students were paired with DPT 3 students in groups of two or three. Based on the concept of 'speed dating' each group had three minutes to network by asking and/or answering questions related to clinical education. At the end of three minutes, the students moved to a new group, which repeated for an hour timeframe. This allowed for ~20 brief interactions.
The three faculty facilitators observed positive non-verbal communication, willingness to share information between partners and active listening. (Specific information will be presented in table format in this section.) Immediately following and in subsequent classes, members from both groups reported the experience to be beneficial and would recommend making it an annual occurrence. The DPT 3 group reported that the experience as a mentor was rewarding as well. In addition, both groups had specific feedback to make the activity sustainable and more meaningful.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education
This 'Speed Networking' event was positively perceived by all faculty facilitators and both student groups. The post-networkng informal conversations brought forward recommendations that will help in the success of a peer-mentoring activity. Incorporating peer-mentoring into clinical education preparation will become an annual occurence in this curriculum to aid in supporting student success, reducing anxiety prior to a first clinical experience, and promoting professional development.
King, G. A Framework of personal and environmental learning-based strategies to foster therapist expertise. Learning in Health and Social Care. Sep 2009; 8(3): 185-199.
Black et al. The first year of practice: An investigation of the professional learning and development of promising novice physical therapists. Phys Ther. Dec 2010: 90(12): 1758-1773.