Date of Award


Document Type



Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Cindy Flom-Meland


Physical Therapy, Clinical Instructor (CI), survey, entry-level therapists, Clinical Performance Instrument (CPI)


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to gain perspective on how physical therapy clinical instructors (CI) define entry-level in relation to the field of physical therapy. The research question asked CIs was whether or not there was a difference in how CIs defined entry-level physical therapists. Entry level is defined as “a student who is capable of functioning without guidance or supervision while managing simple or complex conditions, with proficiency in skilled examinations, interventions, and clinical reasoning, and is able to maintain 100% of a full-time therapist’s caseload in a cost-effective manner.”

Methods: A survey was sent to every clinical instructor who had accepted a physical therapy student from the University of North Dakota since 2018. The link to the survey was sent to 309 clinicians. Informed consent was obtained through the voluntary completion of this survey. The electronic survey was developed by the researchers and was evaluated by an outside clinician to enhance reliability and validity. The survey will contain questions gauging the clinical instructors' perspectives on entry-level therapists’ readiness, alongside demographic information such as age, location, setting, etc. Data will be analyzed using SPSS statistics and retained for three years (SPSS).

Results: Of the 76 responses, 67 or 84.2% of respondents stated that they agree with the definition of an entry-level performance and agree upon a 10-12 patient caseload for a full-time Physical Therapist. Those who responded no, which consisted of 12 or 15.8% of respondents, stated they did not agree with the definition or the caseload for an entry-level PT.

Conclusion: Overall, the CPI has been the standard for evaluating a student’s readiness to enter the workforce for nearly two decades, serving as a reliable tool for many physical therapists. However, through research and discussion, it is clear that there is an opportunity for improving and better aligning the CPI with the current developments within the field.