Clinical Education

Once selected for admission into the ATP, students have the opportunity to be assigned to many different clinical assignments utilizing Nebraska Wesleyan University’s athletic teams and off-campus affiliated sites. The purpose of these assignments is to provide students with opportunities to practice and develop their athletic training knowledge, skills and abilities. Athletic training students will be assigned to a Preceptor to gain experience with the following: individual and team sports (university and/or high school), sports requiring protective equipment (university, high school, and/or youth), patients of different sexes, non-sport patient populations (rehabilitation clinics, medical clinics, and/or physician offices), and a variety of conditions other than orthopedics (medical clinics and/or physician offices). In addition, when possible, students are assigned to sports traditionally associated with having upper extremity injuries and sports traditionally associated with having lower extremity injuries. The Clinical Education Coordinator (CEC) will make the clinical assignments and disseminate them in a timely manner at the beginning of each academic year. It may be necessary to reassign a student if the CEC deems it appropriate. The Preceptor will complete an evaluation on each student as outlined in the “evaluation policy.”  

In addition to the above experiences, all students are required to enroll in an Athletic Training Clinical Experience course each of the six semesters while in the ATP. The clinical course includes the clinical assignments and a once a week seminar/lab with a Preceptor. Each student is given a packet of material containing all competencies required for graduation. The booklets have knowledge, skills, and abilities that are first evaluated in class but are evaluated again in the clinical course and are continued to be practiced by the student in order to master them. The Preceptor further evaluates this knowledge, skills, and abilities during the clinical assignment. No student is allowed to perform treatment of any kind on his/her own (but still with supervision) until that certain competency has been instructed. This will affect how students are assigned to a clinical assignment. For example, students having only basic modality competencies mastered might be assigned to a high school where few modalities are present. As students progress through the assignments they are given increasing amounts of responsibility per the level of their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Athletic training students will initially be introduced to athletic training knowledge, skills and abilities through the required sequential curricula. In all courses (both clinical and didactic) students will be provided the opportunity to practice the assigned competencies and receive developmental feedback on their individual performance from peers and Preceptors. Athletic training students progress through the program based on successful performance both clinically and didactically. Athletic training students must demonstrate progress 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 knowledge, skills, and abilities 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 a Preceptor. Clinical progression and progress on the knowledge, skills, and abilities is the combined responsibility of the student, ATP faculty, and Preceptors 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. A final proficiency evaluation is typically performed the semester following the didactic instruction of related content. This allows athletic training students to grow and develop their skills over time. This has also enhanced the athletic training students’ retention of knowledge, skills, and abilities. The NWU ATP uses the concept of graded supervision which initially involves close monitoring. Once the student demonstrates adequate proficiency and has demonstrated experience with a particular skill, that student is given more supervised autonomy.

Role of the Preceptors in the Clinical Experience

Preceptors will provide a learning environment for the athletic training students at their clinical site. Preceptors will mentor, supervise, encourage and communicate with the students in order for them to become more independent and autonomous individuals. Preceptors are provided with a syllabus for each clinical experience that identifies weekly content located on ATrack.  The Clinical Education Coordinator communicates regularly with each affiliated site throughout the semester to assure that the Preceptors are working with the students on the assigned competenciesIn addition, all Preceptors undergo training conducted by the Clinical Education Coordinator. In the initial training session, Preceptors are introduced to Athletic Training Education, including the CAATE Standards and the ATP’s own policies and procedures. In addition, this session focuses on strategies to assist the Preceptors in providing an exceptional clinical experience for each student. This initial training occurs when a Preceptor is new to the NWU ATP. Follow-up training is conducted electronically through ATrack as needed. Furthermore, when there are major changes to the ATP’s policies or the CAATE introduces new standards, Preceptors are asked to update their preceptor training.

Role of the Athletic Training Student in the Clinical Experience

Athletic training students are the core of the NWU athletic training clinical program, however, they are not utilized in place of staff. It is by the design of the clinical experience that students are challenged with as much responsibility as they can handle, but not so much as to overwhelm them. The athletic fields, physician offices, and rehabilitation clinics are where a lot of learning takes place. At no time are students expected (nor are they allowed) to replace full-time staff. As part of the clinical experience, the athletic training students will be expected to finish a minimum of 100 hours of clinical experience each semester and no more than 500 hours (see the “clinical hours minimum/maximum policy” for more information).  Clinical experiences involve patient care and the application of athletic training knowledge, skills, and abilities under the supervision of a Preceptor. Athletic training students typically do not spend more than 20 hours a week (as an average) in the clinical setting. Athletic training students are to be given at least one day off in a seven day period. Student’s academic requirements (which includes the clinical education) come before work-related or extracurricular activities. Students should make the most of their time at their clinical experience by spending time treating patients and practicing for the proficiency evaluations. It is the intention of the ATP faculty that clinical experiences involve hands-on clinical experiences in which they are practicing athletic training knowledge, skills, and abilities in “real time”. Athletic training students are required to document details of their clinical experiences on ATrack within seven days. The scheduling of clinical assignments and Preceptors is completed by NWU ATP faculty/staff.   This is to ensure that each student meets the requirements of the program, requirements of the BOC, and the student’s individual goals. However, clinical assignments are subject to change.