Written by Rachel Wagner, PT, DPT
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela
This is a concept that I, as licensed physical therapist and a credentialed clinical instructor, have embraced and welcomed into my professional career. As a graduate from the University of Cincinnati in 2013, I have considered myself a novice in my career as a practicing clinician. So needless to say, when I was asked to be a clinical instructor and to take on physical therapy students in the clinic, I of course had some worries and concerns. Who am I to say that I can prove to be a teacher and an educator for people learning to become practicing clinicians when I am so new myself to the field? Well, I have admittedly discovered I could not have been more wrong about myself and my abilities.
The first step in my process to become a credentialed instructor was to travel to Columbus, Ohio and to attend a two day course to allow me to become a credentialed CI. Hours were spent educating the participants on different learning styles and how to deal with certain circumstances, good or bad, that may arise. I learned a great deal those several days, but I can’t put into words how much I have learned both about myself and the physical therapy field in the time that I spent in the clinic with my students. I have had the honor of being the instructor for 2 students and I am awaiting the start of my third student this coming week!
As a clinical instructor, you must be prepared to mentor students who may be advanced in their clinical process or they may just be starting their very first clinical rotation with you. You must therefore be prepared to teach either. You may also have a student that is more of a visual learner versus a kinesthetic learner which means they thrive on hands on work and just “jumping right in”. One of the positives of being an instructor is seeing this variety and educating yourself on how to work best with different learning styles. Another reason that I have found this experience to be very beneficial is how much quality care a patient receives when they are treated by students and their instructors. Everything my students use and learn in their skill sets must be efficient and effective. I will often ask and promote planning of treatment that is researched and proven to be effective in hopes of helping the patients but to also provide learning experiences for the student. Is everything we utilize always the correct treatment? No. But we are trying to the best of our abilities to help the patient and learn from our experiences. I would say another benefit from being a clinical instructor is what we as physical therapists can give back to our profession. Without clinical instructors that truly care, there would be an obvious lack of quality physical therapists graduating as the clinical portion of our education is where we learn the most of our skills.
The greatest benefit that I have gained from being a clinical instructor is the confidence that has been instilled in me. I know now that if I am able to teach and mentor students in different techniques and skills, I am even more confident in myself as a clinician and someone that really can make a difference in someone’s life. Ever since I can remember my mother always told me “The world needs people like you.” This quote became apparent to me when I decided to become a physical therapist and it has become even more apparent when I took on the role of an educator and mentor. I would encourage all to share their knowledge just as I encourage my patients to share their stories. There is no telling when your story or your knowledge could truly change someone’s life.