Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Health Services Research

Committee Director

Julie Cavallario

Committee Member

Cailee Welch Bacon

Committee Member

Bonnie Van Lunen


Clinical experiences are an essential aspect of athletic training education that offer students opportunities to practice their skills and engage in a variety of settings. The Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE) sets accreditation standards for athletic training programs to meet, including clinical education standards. In fall 2020, new standards took effect that include a few additions to the standards surrounding clinical education; these additions require programs to afford students opportunities to engage in immersive clinical experiences (ICEs), implement behaviors associated with core competencies, and identify strategies that account for patients’ social determinants of health. Educators believe ICEs will help give students a more realistic sense of athletic training practice and provide more patient encounter opportunities for skill development. Students reported that participating in ICEs gave them a higher quality clinical experience, including higher patient encounter volume, feelings of more responsibility and autonomy, and increased incidence of interprofessional education and collaborative practice.

Despite the adoption of ICEs into athletic training clinical education, no research has been conducted to confirm the effectiveness of ICEs to enhance students’ clinical skill practice opportunities. Additionally, no research has been conducted to examine the effect of ICEs on students’ implementation of behaviors associated with the core competencies or on their knowledge of the social determinants of health (SDoH). The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the current impact of immersive clinical experiences on characteristics of patient encounters at clinical experiences, the implementation of behaviors associated with core competencies, and students’ knowledge of the SDoH.

We found no significant difference between immersive and non-immersive clinical experiences in student role, length of patient encounter, clinical site type, total number of diagnoses and procedures used, or implementation of patient-centered care behaviors. Students did implement significantly more behaviors associated with evidence-based practice, interprofessional education and collaborative practice, and health information technology during ICEs. Immersive clinical experiences also had no impact on students’ knowledge, comfort, and familiarity score surrounding the SDoH. Athletic training programs should look to establish specific objectives for the implementation of ICEs in order to take advantage of benefits they may offer to students.