Although many colleges and universities employ Graduate Assistants/Fellows (GAFs) in the field of Athletic Training, little research has been conducted to understand best practices for assisting GAFs in their transition from a student to a professional. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore the GAFs' and their supervisors' perceptions of changes occurring during their first semester of post-professional study within a Master's in Athletic Training program. Specifically, this phenomenological research attempted to describe any changes in the GAFs' clinical competence. Clinical competence can be attributed to decision-making skills and clinical diagnosing skills. In addition, this study explored specific strategies and experiences that contribute to the changes in perceptions of clinical competence of allied health care professionals in Athletic Training.
Through purposeful criterion sampling, one Post-Professional Athletic Training Education Program was selected and resulted in four first-year GAFs, one GAF supervisor/faculty member, and the Program Director (PATEPD) agreeing to be participants. Primarily in-depth interviews were utilized to collect data although secondary data were obtained through observations, journal entries, and other program documents and artifacts. The data were transcribed, coded and analyzed based on the research questions. Four analytic categories were determined to affect the GAF experience: culture of the program, clinical experiences, personal attributes, and coursework.
Several findings and recommendations emerged from the data. The largest influence on the GAF experience stemmed from the PATEPD and the program's philosophy. Notions such as self-reflection, critical thinking, and feeling supported resonated with the participants in order to assist in their confidence and decision-making in the clinical setting. Recommendations include the PATEPD having consciousness of his/her influence throughout the program, the necessity for incorporating clinical thinking skills in coursework due to its application in the clinical setting, and providing varied clinical experiences to further enhance the GAF's clinical knowledge. In addition, the National Athletic Trainers Association should include clinical education as a key component of Post-professional Athletic Training Education Programs. Due to the complexity of the phenomenon of being a GAF in the clinical setting, the researcher suggests the recommendations be considered based on their applicability to the reader's individual situation.
University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. May 2011. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Dr. Joyce Strand, Dr. Mary Ann Marchel. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 154 pages, appendices A-D.
Hoppe, Susan Britton.
Transitioning from a student to a professional in athletic training:a phenomenological review of graduate assistants/fellows..
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