Clinical Education

Clinical Education Experiences

The utilization of the clinical educational experiences at NWU provides the primary setting for the continued teaching, practice, and evaluation of the Entry Level Athletic Training Competencies and Clinical Proficiencies.  At the end of the athletic training student's clinical experience each student will have had four different clinical experiences serving different populations.  Those experiences include; both male and female athletes; exposure to contact, collision, and non-contact activities; equipment intensive sports; experience with team and individual sports; exposure to high school athletes; and participation in orthopedic and general medical affiliates (Lincoln Family Health Physicians).  

Students have daily direct supervision by an ACI/CI and the opportunity for on-going feedback and guidance.  Supervising ACI/CI's afford adequate supervision to assure that the athletic training student performs his or her tasks in a manner consistent with the Standards of Practice of the profession of Athletic Training.  Two elements compose the clinical experience in athletic training: Academic Coursework and Clinical Education.  NWU administers clinical education over six semesters at approved clinical affiliates.  Each semester athletic training students enroll in AT Clinical Experience courses for one credit. These courses integrate cognitive, psychomotor and clinical proficiencies in a didactic setting and then the student will apply their skills within their affiliated sites under the direct supervision of an ACI/CI that involves patient care. 

The clinical education program includes the presentation and evaluation of the Entry Level Athletic Training Competencies and Clinical Proficiencies.  These competencies and clinical proficiencies will be instructed, assessed, and applied in a progression over time.  The clinical experience provides those clinical education experiences for the Athletic Training Student that involves patient care and the application of athletic training skills under the supervision of an ACI/CI.

Clinical Emphasis Specific to NWU

Athletic training students will initially be introduced to Athletic Training Competencies through the required sequential curricula. In each course (both clinical and didactic) the student will be provided the opportunity to practice the assigned competencies and receive developmental feedback on their individual performance from peers, clinical instructors and/or approved clinical instructors. Athletic training students progress through the program based on successful performance both clinically and didactically.  Athletic training students must demonstrate clinical proficiency as identified/defined by the NWU Standardized Clinical Proficiency Rubrics. 

As an athletic training student progresses through the program they will again be exposed to the competencies for practice and re-evaluation. Final evaluation of the assigned competencies is intended to occur in a "real life" clinical experience under graded supervision of our ACI's.  Clinical proficiency is the combined responsibility of the student, ATEP faculty, clinical instructors, and approved clinical instructors as students' progress through six semesters of clinical education.  In the event that the "real life experience" for assessment is not possible, simulations and scenario based evaluations may be used. Proficiency evaluation is typically performed the semester following the didactic instruction of related content.  This allows the athletic training student to grow and develop their skills over time.  This has also enhanced the athletic training student's retention of knowledge and skills. 

The NWU ATEP uses the concept of graded supervision which initially involves close monitoring.  Once they student demonstrates proficiency (from successful completion of the previous semester didactic instruction) and has demonstrated experience with a particular skill, that student will be granted supervised autonomy.

Goals and Objectives

  1. To present, allow practice time and evaluate competencies in athletic training as defined by the BOC in conjunction with CAATE Essentials and Guidelines.
  2. Place the students in supervised clinical experiences which encourage rational thinking, and problem solving skills.
  3. Place the student in supervised clinical experiences which encourage skills such as communication, organization, and administration in the athletic training setting.
  4. Offer situations in which the student may progress from skill acquisition to critical thinking.
  5. Prepare the student to successfully sit for the BOC examination.

Supervision of Athletic Training Students

ACI/CI must be able to intervene:  The ACI/CI must be within immediate physical vicinity and interact with the athletic training student on a regular and consistent basis in order to provide direction and correct inappropriate actions. NWU ATEP utilizes a method of graded supervision that allows for granted supervised autonomy once the student demonstrates proficiency and has demonstrated experiences with a particular skill.   

Ratio of athletic training students to ACI/CI:  The total number of students in the clinical education experience cannot exceed eight students per instructor. This ratio ensures that the athletic training students can be adequately supervised and mentored by the instructors.

Placement of Approved Clinical Instructors:  Three full time certified athletic trainers are on staff at NWU who will serve as Approved Clinical Instructors. Other ACI/CI's may be considered in the clinical experience according to affiliated site documents.

Roles of the ACI/CI in Clinical Experience: The ACI/CI's will provide a learning environment for the athletic training students within their clinical experiences.  They will encourage, mentor, communicate, supervise, and will encourage the students to become more independent and autonomous professionals.    ACI/CI's are provided with a syllabus for each clinical experience that identifies weekly content.  The Clinical Coordinator communicates regularly with each affiliated site throughout the semester to assure that the ACI's are working with the students on the assigned competencies.

Role of the Athletic Training Student in Clinical Experience:  Athletic training students are the core of our athletic training clinical program and ATS are not utilized in the place of staff.  It is by the design of the clinical experience that we attempt to challenge the student with as much responsibility as they can handle, but not so much as to overwhelm them.  The athletic fields are our "labs."  At no time do we expect our students to replace our full time staff.  As part of the clinical experience, the athletic training students will be expected to finish 150 hours of clinical experience each semester.  Clinical experiences involve patient care and application of athletic training skills under the supervision of an ACI/CI.  Athletic training students typically don't work more than 20 clinical hours per week.  The athletic training students will have no clinical experience activities during one calendar day per week.  Athletic training students are required to document their clinical experiences.  At the end of each month, students will need to obtain a signature from their supervising ACI/CI and return to the Clinical Coordinator.  

Design of Field Experience

The clinical experience is designed to allow each athletic training student an "exposure" to the various situations unique to athletic trainers.  The general outline of the field experience is defined by the requirements of the fourth draft by the NATA Education Council and the program at NWU.   

Student's clinical experience and clinical education should include a variety of clinical settings including, but not limited to four year colleges and universities, two year colleges, high schools, clinics, hospitals, industrial health care and rehabilitation clinics, and professional sports.  In an effort to complete all competencies required by the BOC and prepare the students specific to their goals in athletic training as suggested, the clinical experience program at NWU also offers opportunities in the rehabilitation of athletes at NWU, the general medical setting, high school setting along with internship opportunities.

The scheduling of assignments to mentors is completed by the personnel of the athletic training education program. This is to ensure that each student meets the requirements of the program, requirements of the BOC, and student's individual goals.

Standards and Clinical Experience

  1. Signed NWU ATEP Technical Standard document.
  2. Physical exam conducted during August, must be completed before clinical experiences can begin.
  3. Background check required.
  4. Signed Drug and Alcohol Policy
  5. Blood-borne pathogen training (takes place during orientation at each site) and signed form.
  6. Immunization records and proof of Hepatitis B immunizations submitted to the Program Director
  7. TB skin test completed before clinical experiences can begin
  8. Submit proof of health insurance to the Program Director
  9. Meet with specific ACI/CI for complete clinical experience overview prior to the start of the assignment.
  10. The athletic training student, under the guidance of the ACI/CI, should initiate open communication with the coach of the team he/she is working with.
  11. The athletic training student should be prompt and punctual.  Time arrivals should be discussed with your ACI/CI prior to the beginning of the season.
  12. The athletic training student will be responsible for the preparation, management, and follow-up care for athletes relative to their clinical experience under the guidance of their ACI/CI.
  13. Clinical experience time is a valuable tool for an athletic trainer.  It is an excellent opportunity for the athletic training student to become familiar with the normal activities of the team and the athletes.  It is important that you stay close to the situation.  Your time spent at the clinical experience should be an educational and enjoyable time for you to focus on your career in athletic training.
  14. Be aware of emergency procedures and know the location of emergency equipment.

Failure to comply with policies in regard to clinical experience rotations and assignments include, but is not limited to, the following and may result in a disciplinary notice or sanctions:

  • Failure to be present or on time for an assignment
  • Failure to notify the ACI/ CI when not able to be present for assignments
  • Failure to arrange for a substitute when not able to be present for an assignment
  • Leaving the site during assigned times without substitute and/or without notifying and obtaining consent from the ACI/CI.
  • Not completing opening or closing duties required during your clinical assignment
  • Failure to provide appropriate care to patients as allowed
  • Not providing appropriate preparation for practice and/or competition.  This includes but is not limited to patient preparation, preparations relating to patient hydration and safety and preparation of equipment needed by ACI/CI's
  • Direct insubordination
  • Performing athletic training skills (treatment, evaluations, rehabilitation etc.) for which the student has not been formally taught and evaluated
  • Performing athletic training skills (treatment, evaluations, rehabilitation, etc.) without being under the direct supervision of an ACI or CI
  • Any activity or action which places the health and safety of a patient or another person at risk
  • Dress code violation

Due to the fact that the health and safety of the patients served is the primary concern, situations may arise which require immediate disciplinary action of the ACI/CI.  When a student fails to comply with the policies and procedures the ACI/CI will fill out a disciplinary notice that will be signed by the athletic training student, ACI/CI, Clinical Coordinator and Program Director and will be placed in the students file.

Recording Hours of Field Experience

A student must acquire a minimum of 150 hours of supervised clinical experiences each semester.  All hours spent under supervision by an ACI/CI may be counted towards total cumulative hours.  These hours include time spent in the preparation and management of athletes, attending practices, contests, and taking care of post practice/contest needs.

Athletic training students are responsible for recording and maintaining daily hour logs.  It is your responsibility to turn these daily logs into the clinical coordinator each month.  Each month these hours will be added to your accumulative hour sheet that is kept in your portfolio.  This process will enable everyone to monitor your normal progression through the athletic training education program.

Educational Guidance and Post Graduate Placement

Upon acceptance and throughout the athletic training education program, the ATEP staff will help each student in defining their immediate and long-term goals.  The staff will make every attempt to advise, encourage, and arrange experience enhancing the student's professional exposure and development.

Upon entrance into the program, the program director and clinical coordinator, along with the student, will design a professional portfolio.  This portfolio will help the student identify goals and objectives for post -graduate employment.  In addition, it will assist the athletic training staff in assigning clinical placements based upon the suggestions of the BOC.  The staff will assist the student in creating a resume, preparing for interviews, and locating position openings appropriate to the student's goals.