Objective: One objective of chiropractic education is to cultivate clinical confidence in novice practitioners. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe how participation in a short-term international service learning experience changed perceptions of clinical confidence in senior chiropractic students.
Methods: Seventeen senior chiropractic students participated in 4 moderated focus group sessions within 4 months after a clinical educational opportunity held in international settings. Participants answered standard questions on how this educational experience may have changed their clinical confidence. Two investigators performed qualitative thematic analysis of the verbatim transcripts to identify core concepts and supporting themes.
Results: The core concept was transformation from an unsure student to a confident doctor. The service learning experience allowed students to deliver chiropractic treatment to patients in a real-world setting, engage in frequent repetitions of technical skills, perform clinical decision-making and care coordination, and communicate with patients and other health professionals. Students described increased clinical confidence in 9 competency areas organized within 3 domains: (1) chiropractic competencies including observation, palpation, and manipulation; (2) clinical competencies including problem solving, clinic flow, and decision-making; and (3) communication competencies, including patient communication, interprofessional communication, and doctor–patient relationship. Students recommended that future service learning programs include debriefing sessions similar to the experience offered by these focus groups to enhance student learning.
Conclusion: Senior chiropractic students who participated in an international service learning program gained confidence and valuable practical experience in integrating their chiropractic, clinical, and communication skills for their future practices.
Author keywords: Chiropractic, Spinal Manipulation, Clinical Competence, Health Communication, Decision-making, Professional Education
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