Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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Purpose: Microaggressions are “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group” (Gilliam & Russel, 2021). The effect of microaggressions has been explored among medical students, however, there is limited literature identifying the frequency and effect of microaggressions on Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students. The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of DPT students on clinical experiences to determine: 1) the frequency that students experience microaggressions, and 2) the impact of microaggressions on self-efficacy.

Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional electronic survey (SurveyMonkey) was sent to the clinical educators of five DPT programs, for distribution to 1,336 students on their clinical experiences over two trimesters. A total of 89 students completed the survey. The survey asked for demographic traits, clinical experience characteristics, and whether they experienced microaggressions during their clinical experience. Self-efficacy was assessed using a Microaggression Likert scale addressing the following categories: Confidence, Belongingness, Focus, Patient Care, Patient Communication, Colleague Communication, and Sleep. The Microaggression Likert Scale questions were developed considering the Physiotherapist Self- Efficacy (PSE) Questionnaire and the Racial and Ethnic Microaggressions Scale (REMS). Students were provided open-ended questions to describe their experience with microaggressions. Frequencies and percentages were calculated for categorical variables, with medians and interquartile ranges reported for the Microaggressions Likert scale. Spearman’s Rho correlations were performed.

Results/Outcomes: The average age of respondents was 27.43 (SD = 2.81), 41.6% identified as an Underrepresented Minority and the majority of identified as woman. Over half (n = 51, 57.3%) of the respondents were on their final clinical experience. Forty-nine students (55.1%) reported they experienced microaggressions while on their clinical experience. Forty of these students answered the questions on the Microaggression Likert scale, which had a Cronbach’s Alpha of 0.773. They reported a mean of 7.22 (SD = 5.65) instances of microaggressions while on their clinical experience. The Microaggression Likert scale items of Confidence, Belongingness, Focus, and Colleague Communication all had medians of 4 (Agree), indicating students agree that microaggressions negatively affected their ability in these areas. Patient Care, Patient Communication, and Sleep all had medians of 3 (Neither Agree nor Disagree), indicating a mostly neutral affect. Spearman’s Rho correlation between demographic/ clinical experience traits and Microaggression Likert scale items revealed very few significant correlations (rs = 0.304 to 0.380, p = 0.023 to 0.047).

Conclusion: Although this was a small sample, over half of students reported experiencing microaggressions while on their clinical experience. Microaggressions had a negative effect on confidence, belongingness, focus, and colleague communication. Many students also reported microaggressions affecting patient care, patient communication, and sleep; however, these areas were not as negatively impacted.


This poster was presented at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Educational Leadership Conference in October 2023.


The authors



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