Burnout and grit in student physical therapists before and after terminal clinical education experiences: a prospective longitudinal study of a single class-year cohort

Kish, Jennifer C.; Dugan, Jessica L.; Gleeson, Peggy B.

Rationale: Burnout has been reported by graduate healthcare students during several phases of preprofessional education. The purpose of this study was to explore changes in levels of Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student burnout and grit before and after clinical education. Additional aims included exploring how burnout and grit might differ based on student gender and over time and what relationships might exist between burnout and grit in this population.

Methods: All enrolled third year DPT students (n = 50) at a single physical therapist education program participated in this study. Participants were surveyed using the Maslach Burnout Inventory Human Services Survey and the 12-Item Grit Scale at the end of curricular Year 3 and at graduation after terminal clinical education experiences. Descriptive, exploratory, and comparative statistical methods were used.

Results: Male participants reported significantly decreased emotional exhaustion (EE) from Year 3 to graduation, p ≤ 0.0001. Overall, the cohort reported significantly decreased EE, F(1,48) = 12.35, p = 0.001, d = 0.44 and increased personal accomplishment, F(1,48) = 13.322, p = 0.001, d = 0.58 after terminal clinical experiences. The main effect of time on grit scores was also significant, p = 0.035. A moderate inverse relationship existed between student grit levels at Year 3 and EE levels at graduation, r = –0.447, p = 0.01.

Conclusions: Cohort burnout scores did not meet the Maslach Burnout Inventory criteria definition for burnout; mean EE and personal accomplishment subscale scores significantly changed over time. Male DPT students reported moderate levels of EE at the start of terminal clinical experiences that dropped significantly to low levels compared to female students. Student grit levels in this study were high compared to recent investigations of other DPT cohorts. Grit may have a protective effect against DPT students experiencing burnout.

Meshterms: Burnout, Professional; Physical Therapists/education; Achievement.


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Also Published In

The Journal of Clinical Education in Physical Therapy

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Published Here
August 29, 2022


physical therapist education, clinical education, burnout, grit