Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

Advisor 1

Carrie Gillis

First Committee Member

Merrill Landers

Second Committee Member

Daniel Young

Number of Pages



Background and Purpose: People living in rural and underserved areas are poorly served by our country's healthcare system. The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy reports that approximately 18% of people in the United States live in rural areas. Within the physician and nursing literature the largest reported predictor of rural practice is having a rural background. Mandated rural medical rotations during training have been shown to positively alter interest in rural practice and employment. While nursing and medical students have been thus studied, limited evidence exists for physical therapists. The objective of this study was to determine how rural or underserved full time clinical education experiences completed by physical therapy students affect their interest in rural or underserved employment. Subjects: Students (64) were recruited from a single physical therapy program of which 51 responded. Among them, 14 participated in full-time rural clinical education experiences, 32 in underserved, and 5 in settings considered both rural and underserved. Methods: Pre- and post-full-time clinical education experience surveys, modified from the SOMERS Index of Rural Career Choice Likelihood, were administered online to the students within one week before and one week after their first rural or underserved clinical education experience. Surveys included questions on demographics, interest in practicing in rural, underserved, and urban locations following graduation, perceived barriers and benefits of practicing in these locations, and overall perception of the clinical education experience in which they participated. Results: Students who participated in rural or underserved full-time clinical education experiences had a statistically significant increase in interest for seeking rural employment (0-7 scale with higher scores indicating greater interest; rural pre-interest = 3.96 ± 1.60, rural post-interest = 4.41 ± 1.81, p = 0.012), and a positive trend was observed in seeking underserved employment (underserved pre-interest = 4.88 ± 1.26, post-interest = 5.16 ± 1.39, p = 0.07). Students with intent to complete a rural or underserved clinical education experience regardless of curriculum requirements reported significantly higher satisfaction (6.46 ± 0.64) compared to those without such intent (5.35 ± 2.17, p = 0.012). Upbringing in rural or underserved areas was not associated with interest in employment in these settings (Rural rs = 0.26, p = 0.07; Underserved rs = 0.11, p = 0.44). Interest in rural and underserved employment post-graduation was significantly associated with previous experience in that setting (Rural rs = 0.36, p = 0.009; Underserved rs = 0.38, p = 0.006). Discussion: Student interest in seeking rural or underserved employment was higher among students who participated in rural or underserved full time clinical education experiences. Student intention to participate in rural or underserved full time clinical education experiences and previous experience in a rural setting appear to be linked to higher student satisfaction with their clinical education experiences and future intention to work in rural settings respectively. This study illustrates the importance of clinical education experience satisfaction in the recruitment of physical therapists in rural and underserved practice. Data gathered from our study may help educational administrators, employers and healthcare organizations to make informed decisions regarding curricular design changes, recruitment, and retention of physical therapists to improve the availability of health services in rural and underserved areas in the state of Nevada.


Clinical Education; Physical Therapy; Practice Interest; Rural; Underserved; Student Physical Therapist; Education; Administration; Health; Healthcare; SOMERS


Medicine and Health Sciences | Physical Therapy | Rehabilitation and Therapy

File Format


File Size

743 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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