I had a past DPT intern contact me after starting another internship following our clinical. I cropped out a few jokes and other personal information, but read the following:


This is rewarding and disturbing all at the same time! Rewarding in that my hard work and preparation of providing the best clinical internship combining the 3 pillars of EBP has been welcomed by the future of our profession. But mostly disturbing in that the intern’s experience as described is exactly what I hear way too often.

I won’t blab on my soap box here but if you’re going to take a student, step up your game. I can certainly remember my clinical experiences (as I can remember my 2nd grade teacher), so you are making a dynamic impact on an individual. Remember, the ~$70 grand that is spent on the DPT degree only has about 5-6 internships. This is a low number for field work that a student experiences. These observation patterns and reflection for a student can mold practice patterns for years to come.

One of my favorite quotes:

“Nothing will impede our progress towards Vision 2020 more than a group of students having evidenced-based practice in adequately modeled in clinical settings” -Steven George, Guest Editorial

Are you, or did you, have a BAD experience as a student?  How can we improve our clinical education???




  1. HV,

    Amen, I hear it from almost EVERY student. They call their next internship, they of course say sure we do manual and 1:1 (because honestly every PT probably thinks they do a good job). They get there and learn nothing and it’s a shake and bake clinic. We who are in PT social media are most likely NOT the problem, how to fix it? Not sure, been hearing it for 15 years.

    1. Ha, I like shake and bake (may steal that one!). I ask my students why they chose me (because I work in a rural area and nothing much is around) and 9 out of 10 times it is due to manual therapy and dry needling (other than hearing good things). So, you can definitely skew impression of manual therapy by just offering it.

      How to fix it…I don’t know! That’s why con ed is such a big hit…everyone wants something to learn how to treat…


    1. Exactly…some are forced to in case of a staff change at a facility but otherwise…not much learning is taken place.

  2. Good post Harrison… Schools need to be held accountable too for sending students to these settings. Especially when that feedback is given.

    1. I agree Jerry. Working on a project now with EIM to get the ball rolling in a better direction. Thanks for reading!

  3. We teach medical students in our office, and I sure hope that they don’t feel like free labor. Having a student can be rewarding, but certainly does not inprove the bottom line, just makes staying late to catch up on charting whose time was replace by teaching. Sounds like your office does a good job, but others in your area may not.

    1. Thanks for the response Dr. Pullen. The teaching is really why the students are at the clinic…not free labor.

  4. It’s definitely sad what’s out there for clinical instructors. I’ve been a PT for two years now and had my first student real soon after graduating, and students tell me that I’m the best CI they’ve had. I’m not trying to brag, just comparing that too people who have been CI’s for 10+ years. I think a lot of it is they’ve been doing it for so long, that they just coast, probably the same way that they treat. There definitely needs to be more quality assurance with clinical rotations, especially if we are ever going to be the patient’s choice for primary care provider.

    A big belief of mine is “if you’re a good CI, a student should be more work for you at first instead of less work and/or free labor.”

    1. Hey Mark,
      Yes, just like any good teacher, hard work initially will make it easy for you later. Teaching can be just as rewarding as treating, you get that good feeling when the lightbulb goes off and you see the student in action…just like a patient finally getting the exercise, etc. to give themselves relief.

      Thanks for reading!

  5. Frozen shoulder lady with pain 9/10 left with 0/10. WOW. well i have had pretty much the same experience during my internship. Just started going through your blog and i love it. COuld you point me in the right direction when working on a frozen shoulder with typical capsular pattern restriction. I struggle with these patients. Not really a big fan of electrical modalities. Thanks

    1. Abhi,
      Sorry for the late reply. I plan to post something in the near future on frozen shoulder. It can be tough to treat though, and yes, you are on the right track to go without modalities.

      I will say refer back to a study by Johnson et al in JOSPT in 2007 talking about A/P glide of the humeral head, instead of usual P/A glide of humeral head to improve shoulder external rotation. I find obtaining as much ER as you can (in comfortable range), will lead to very positive outcomes for all types of patients, especially frozen shoulder.


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