An Exploration of Clinical Instructors' Experiences and Perceptions of the Physical Therapy Clinical Performance Instrument

Thumbnail Image
Creaser, Gail A.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Mount Saint Vincent University
Clinical education is an essential component of the preparation of physiotherapy students for their readiness to practice. Education and evaluation of students’ clinical performance is carried out under the guidance of qualified physiotherapist clinical instructors who have had varying amounts of preparation for their roles. Clinical instructors observe physiotherapy students’ behaviour within the complex context of patient care and interpret their performance as it relates to defined evaluation criteria. Canadian physiotherapy programs use The Physical Therapy Clinical Performance Instrument (CPI) to evaluate students. The CPI was developed as an evaluation tool that would be widely accepted and applicable to a broad range of clinical environments. The purpose of this study was to explore the shared experiences of physiotherapy clinical instructors using the CPI and their perceptions of its relevance to clinical practice and student evaluation. Three focus groups were assembled using a purposeful sampling approach. Physiotherapy clinical instructors from three tertiary healthcare facilities affiliated with Dalhousie University participated. Verbatim transcripts of the focus group discussions constituted the research data. A qualitative data-analysis revealed five themes: CPI for summative evaluation, CPI for formative evaluation, training to use the CPI, shared learning, and practicality of the CPI. The clinical instructors described factors that influenced their perception of the value of the CPI as well as their application of it. The strength of the CPI was considered to be its use as a tool to promote dialogue and learning. Its use for summative evaluation was perceived to be problematic due to inconsistent application across clinical instructors. Training to use the CPI was useful and was considered a positive influence on the clinical instructors’ understanding of it. The language, irrelevance of some performance criteria, and excessive overall length of the CPI were found to have a negative impact on its practicality. This exploratory study indicated challenges and the potential impact that inconsistent understanding of the CPI can have on the clinical evaluation of physiotherapy students. Further study is required to determine the impact that training has on clinical instructors’ application and satisfaction with the CPI.
Clinical instructors , Physiotherapy clinical instructors , Clinical Performance Instrument (CPI)