Education Doctorate

Number of Pages


Year Approved


First Advisor

Jessica Daniels

Second Reader

Cameron Conn, Terrence Nordstrom


Many Americans experience high levels of stress, particularly young adults and college students. Stress has been found to be particularly high among students in the health professions, including physical therapy students. High levels of stress, chronic stress, or stress that is not well managed can have negative effects on physical and mental health. Stress can also have positive effects, particularly at low or moderate levels and when it is transient. Clinical education is the liminal space between a student’s educational program and practice in which students have the opportunity to experience real-life stressors, practice stress management skills, and develop habits for stress management that will translate to their role as physical therapy clinicians. Resilient students will become resilient practitioners who experience high levels of well-being and job satisfaction, are more likely to avoid burnout, will persist in the profession, and will provide higher-quality care. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of graduate-level physical therapy students in the United States related to stress during clinical education experiences. Fifteen Doctor of Physical Therapy students, completing their final clinical experience, shared their experiences related to stress through written reflections and semi-structured interviews. The findings were organized into five themes: Stressors/Demands, Coping/Response to Stressors/Demands, Person Factors Influencing Stress Response, Environment Factors Influencing Stress Response, and Outcomes of Stressful Situations/Experiences. The findings revealed implications for all stakeholders including academic educators, clinical educators, and students.

Degree Name

Education Doctorate

Document Type

Doctoral dissertation