PTA Fieldwork Policies

Guidelines of Clinical Education Process

Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education (ACCE): The program faculty responsible for planning, coordination, facilitation, administration, monitoring, and assessment of the clinical education component of the curriculum.

Site Coordinator of Clinical Education (SCCE): The individual employed by the clinical site who assigns, plans and coordinates internship assignments and monitors student on-site progress and who may mediate student and Clinical Instructor communication during the clinical internship. This is the clinical site’s primary contact for clinical education.

Clinical Instructor (CI): The physical therapist or physical therapist assistant employed by the clinical internship site that provides the clinical education component of the curriculum. CIs must have a minimum of 1 year of experience in the practice area of the student clinical education course, have active licensure as a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant, and have met clinical competency expectations of the clinical facility. Clinical Instructors with less than 1 year of clinical experience may serve as a CI for Practicums, which are 80 hours, under the close supervision of a CCCE who is an eligible CI.

The ACCE is responsible for scheduling and assigning students to clinical education sites for both the Practicum and the Affiliations. Clinical assignments are based on multiple factors, including the availability of placements, and may involve out of town travel.

Students are given opportunities to share information with the ACCE and Assistant to the ACCE regarding their interests and preferences for locations and types of facilities for each level of clinical education. Beginning with new student orientation, students are encouraged to email the ACCE if they become interested in a particular facility. Students are given a form to fill out approximately six-to-nine months prior to their first clinical experience. Students rate their interests in particular settings for each clinical experience and can list specific clinical sites and cities where they are interested in going. The ACCE and Assistant to the ACCE work together to find sites that coincide with each student’s “wish list” for each of the clinical experiences. Any site that is obtained is then entered in to the online EXXAT system. Approximately eight weeks prior to each clinical experience, the students rate their interest in the provided available sites, and the EXXAT system matches the student with the facility based on the ratings and geographical distance to the facility. After this time the ACCE and the Assistant to the ACCE review the matchings to ensure appropriateness of the selection. The ACCE reviews each student’s progress within the curriculum and may seek feedback from the Program Director and other faculty members as needed. Students are formally assigned by the ACCE to inpatient and outpatient settings in a manner that allows for the opportunity to complete one Practicum in an inpatient or outpatient setting, one Affiliation in an outpatient setting, and one Affiliation in an inpatient setting.

The program has contractual arrangements with numerous local and regional facilities and practices. Students are sent only to those facilities for which a contract exists. Student-accessible files containing detailed facility information are located in the department and managed by the ACCE. Students are encouraged to utilize this resource in developing their preferences and rationale for requesting placement at a particular facility. Feedback from students who are currently in the program and who have already been assigned to facilities are a great source for informal assessment of the opportunities available. The ACCE can also provide valuable insight into the clinical sites a student may wish to consider.

Additional information regarding clinical education (i.e. syllabi, assignment sheets, problem-solving information, professionalism, etc.) is available in the clinical education materials provided to students before each specific clinical education course.

Clinical Education within the Curriculum

The clinical education program is an essential part of the physical therapist assistant education program. Clinical education allows the student to practice and apply concepts and skills learned in the classroom and labs to the real-world setting, and it allows the student to expand his or her didactic knowledge, develop necessary communication and interpersonal skills, develop good work habits, develop clinical competencies and identify role models. Obtaining a variety of experiences fosters the development of a well-rounded, versatile physical therapist assistant and allows the student to assess future goals and needs. The clinical education program is designed to prepare the graduate for entry-level, generalist practice. While some clinical education sites may offer specialized experiences beyond entry-level, general practice that is representative geographically and through the lifespan is the priority in clinical education site assignments.

Schedule and Timelines

Clinical education is an essential part of the preparation of physical therapist assistants. The PTA curriculum includes 16 weeks of clinical education in a variety of practice settings. Clinical education coursework includes one four-week Clinical Practicum and two longer (six week) Clinical Affiliations.

Term 4:

Clinical Practicum I (four weeks): Offered mid-term

Term 5:

Clinical Affiliation I (six weeks): Offered at the beginning of the term

Clinical Affiliation II (six weeks): Offered mid-term

Site Requirements

Sites for clinical education experiences are available locally and regionally. There are also out-of-area locations that are currently available; however, students must remain in California for their clinical experiences. Clinical education site assignments are made commensurate to the content taught in the curriculum, on the basis of student’s educational needs, and on the availability of appropriate sites.

Development of contractual agreements with a variety of clinical sites is an ongoing process. The Program contracts with skilled nursing facilities; acute, subacute, and rehabilitation hospitals; ambulatory care centers; private practices; inpatient and outpatient pediatric facilities; occupational medicine centers; home health locations; and long-term acute care facilities; for example.

A primary goal of the clinical education curriculum is to build competency in generalist physical therapist assistant practice that is representative of practice geographically, across the lifespan, and across the continuum of care. To meet this goal, students are expected to complete one Practicum in either an outpatient or inpatient setting, one Affiliation in an outpatient setting, and one Affiliation in an inpatient setting. An inpatient setting is one in which the patient requires a stay in a facility to receive care. Examples of an inpatient setting include an acute care hospital or medical center, an inpatient rehabilitation facility, a skilled nursing facility, or a long-term acute care facility. Patients who can travel outside of their home to receive medical care at a clinic, center or office are considered outpatient settings. Examples of outpatient settings include pediatric clinics, orthopedic and/or sports medicine clinics, and occupational medicine clinics.

Formal Written Agreement

Before any students are assigned to a specific clinical education facility, a legal written agreement must be completed between the facility and Stanbridge University. Contracts with the PTA program are located in EXXAT, a clinical education management website that houses information related to active clinical sites. On the first of every month, an email from EXXAT is sent out to ACCE and Assistant to the ACCE, with notification of contracts expiring within the next 60 days. Stanbridge University contracts are effective for three years and have an automatic renewal unless otherwise indicated by one party with a written thirty-day notice of end of term. Contracts can also be generated by the specific legal team at the clinical site and may have varying term lengths.

Site Selection

The program makes every effort to select, develop and maintain quality clinical sites. Many of the clinical education sites are located throughout Southern California, primarily in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties. Clinical sites are also available in San Diego county as well as in Central and Northern California.

Sites are selected based on the following criteria:

  1. Clinical education experiences are planned to meet objectives of the program, Clinical Instructor, and individual student.
  2. The site offers a stimulating environment appropriate to the learning needs of students, including an adequate number of qualified Clinical Instructors needed to meet student needs.
  3. A willingness to offer clinical experiences on an ongoing routine basis.
  4. Clinical site administrative support of clinical education is demonstrated.

The ACCE will consider developing additional sites at the request of students if the proposed site provides an exceptional learning experience, particularly in specialty practices. It is not the intention of the program to develop new clinical education contracts for the sole purpose of students traveling or staying near friends or family. However, every effort will be made to accommodate students who wish to have their clinical experiences out of the area.

Clinical sites may initiate contact with the ACCE to inquire about becoming a clinical education partner.

Students interested in a new site should notify the ACCE or Assistant to the ACCE. The ACCE or Assistant to the ACCE will initiate contact with the clinical site. If appropriate the ACCE may allow the student to contact the facility to gather information about the willingness to accept students from a new contract and to obtain contact information. Students then forward this information to the ACCE. At this point communication is assumed by the ACCE or Assistant to the ACCE, and the potential of formulating a long-term clinical education relationship is determined. A Clinical Experience Contract (unless use of a facility specific contract is requested) and a Clinical Education Reservation Form are sent electronically. The ACCE or Assistant to the ACCE schedules a site visit prior to a student being placed, where the Clinical Education Handbook and PTA curriculum are reviewed with the SCCE or facility designee. In some instances, the review of the clinical education program and curriculum may be done over the phone instead of in person. Electronic copies (or hard copies if requested) of the student professional liability waiver, the Clinical Education Handbook, and an overview of the PTA curriculum and clinical skills are provided once the contract is signed. Information related to the curriculum and clinical skills of the PTA students may be discussed verbally prior the signing of the contract.

Students assess their clinical site and Clinical Instructor during each clinical experience, which helps the ACCE determine if the site should be used for future students. This feedback is provided to the ACCE on the Student Evaluation of the Clinical Practicum Experience (Practicum I) and the Physical Therapist Assistant Student Evaluation: Clinical Experience and Clinical Instruction (Affiliation I and II). Students provide assessments related to their CI’s demonstration of clinical competence, professional conduct, effectiveness of instructional and supervisory skills, communication, interpersonal and performance evaluation skills. Information on the clinical site relating to client management and practice environment is gathered, including diversity of the patient mix, patient lifespan, continuum of care, and the components of care that the student participates in. Information is also provided to the ACCE during post-clinical meetings that occur following each clinical experience, through which the students share their experiences with the ACCE and fellow classmates.

Site Visits

Every effort is made to visit new clinical sites prior to a student being placed at a facility. Site visits prior to assigning a student help to determine demographics of the facility including patient population, pace of facility, other disciplines present, common interventions and diagnoses treated, and diversity of equipment and resources. Site visits also assist with development of a positive relationship with the clinical staff and are routinely performed in conjunction with student placement at the facility. The ACCE or other faculty visit each student and CI during both Affiliation I and Affiliation II. Phone consultations are scheduled with the student and clinical instructor when sites are outside of a 75-mile radius. Routinely used sites outside of a 75-mile radius may be visited approximately every two-to-three years or via other methods.

Dissemination of Student Information to Affiliating Clinics

All student background information and clinical course-specific information are provided to clinical sites four-to-six weeks prior to the clinical experience via EXXAT, the clinical education management website customized to Stanbridge University. An email is generated by the ACCE and sent to the facility’s SCCE that contains a link to EXXAT where the SCCE can access the student’s vaccination records, background check, student biography, etc. The email contains attachments where the SCCE can find the specific course syllabus, assignment sheet, list of clinical skills/expectations, etc. The Clinical Education Handbook containing clinical education policies is provided to each clinical site prior to the clinical experience, upon establishment of a contract. The handbook is also available to clinical sites electronically on EXXAT for easy reference. In order to ensure that the clinical information is disseminated to the CI from the SCCE, a separate email to the CIs containing the course specific information is sent two weeks later. CIs are encouraged to reach out to the SCCE to obtain the student-specific information as needed, if they have not already received the information from the SCCE. It is the student’s responsibility to review the course-specific information with the clinical instructor prior to the clinical experience or on the first day of the experience. Students are expected to contact the clinical site via telephone no later than two weeks prior to the start of the clinical experience, to ensure proper information transfer has occurred, to confirm their daily schedule, and to confirm the ACCE’s (or other faculty’s) clinical site visit appointment. The student then turns in a form containing this information to the ACCE.

Equipment Safety and Maintenance

Stanbridge University expects that all individuals who use the Therapy Labs and/or classrooms have access to safe and appropriately maintained equipment.

It is essential that all individuals who use the Therapy Labs, faculty, and students alike, are to check the equipment for proper function before use, and if a deficiency is found, to notify the appropriate personnel.

  1. It is the responsibility of all students and faculty members to check equipment used in the classrooms and laboratory rooms for proper function prior to each use. If equipment needs repair, it:
  1. a) should be clearly marked for repair,
  2. b) reported to the program Director or to the appropriate department (e.g. IT, maintenance, etc.) for repair and,
  3. c) if possible, removed from service.

No one may use defective equipment or supplies.

  1. Faculty should instruct students in the safe use of all equipment in labs. Students may not practice with equipment until they have been instructed on its use in class.
  2. Equipment manuals are to be kept on file in the Program Director’s office or, if possible, with the unit.
  3. At a minimum, an annual inventory of existing equipment is conducted under the direction of a faculty member within the PTA department. The Logistics department schedules an annual safety inspection with a clinical engineering company whose staff inspects and calibrates the equipment. The inspectors provide a final inspection report to the program which is designed to bring any equipment functional problems or equipment safety issues to the attention of the Program Director. Records of these inspections are kept in the Logistics department.
  4. If an external vendor loans equipment to the program for use in class or laboratories, e.g. continuous passive motion machines, the vendor must provide a memorandum with the equipment that ensures the safety of the equipment.

Storage and Use of Hazardous Materials

Stanbridge University expects that all individuals who utilize the PTA Skills Lab and/or classrooms will understand the proper storage and use of hazardous materials.

A Safety Data Binder is located in all PTA labs which contains the Material Safety Data Sheets for all the chemicals encountered in the labs.  All chemicals are stored safely and properly in the lab cabinets.

It is essential that all individuals who utilize the PTA Skills Lab, faculty and students alike, are to understand and abide by the cadaver lab and lab safety procedures to ensure safety when dealing with hazardous materials in those labs, and if an issue arises, to notify the appropriate personnel.

  1. Students will be provided a copy of lab safety procedures  during the first session of Anatomy and Physiology Cadaver lab and PTA Lab I.
  2. Students will be explained the equipment, materials, and hazardous materials they will encounter in these labs and how to maximize safety in these labs.
  3. Students will sign policy and procedure forms related to propoer laboratory use.  These will be kept on file for compliance and understanding of established procedures.

Clinical and Lab Safety

Stanbridge University maintains an expectation that a clinical site is considered an extension of the physical campus, and while at a site, students are expected to maintain the highest standards of personal hygiene and safety. Lab sessions on campus should mimic behavior one would expect to see in the clinic. The following standards have been identified:

  1. Students will be continually monitored by faculty for practice of safety skills.
  2. Students will be reminded by the faculty to incorporate safe practice in all skill labs.
  3. Students who do not follow one or more of the safe practices during lab sessions will be advised of the failure and re-instructed by faculty as necessary.
  4. If a student fails to follow safe practices on a lab practical, he/she will fail the lab practical and need to retake it per instructions in the syllabus.
  5. If a student shows blatant disregard for the safety of a classmate, the patient and/or him/herself at any time, the consequences will be determined on an individual basis. Possibilities include but are not limited to, failure of the lab practical, failure of the class or clinical experience, or removal from the program.

In addition, the following specific guidelines have been established:

Infection Control

  1. All students shall practice proper hand washing technique/hand hygiene while utilizing labs.
  2. Non-latex gloves are available for those with latex allergy.

Lab Skills

  1. Students will be instructed to practice only those skills for which they have had prior instruction.
  2. Students are expected to come to lab appropriately prepared for each skill/technique to be practiced.
  3. Students should practice safe techniques at all times. Standard precautions also should be followed at all times.
  4. Students will be instructed in and are expected to use proper/safe body mechanics at all times.
  5. Students are responsible for reporting to faculty any equipment problems/maintenance issues, such as frayed electrical cords, cracked plugs, broken parts, missing parts, etc.
  6. Students must contact the Logistics department, the Learning Resource Center,  or a PTA faculty member to be given access to laboratories outside of scheduled class times. Students are allowed to utilize those labs as long as there is not a class scheduled at the same time.  Students will clean and return the lab back to its original condition found prior to using the lab.