School of Preventive and Rehabilitative Health Sciences

Clinical Experience

Clinical Education

An integral part of the athletic training education at Gardner-Webb University is the hands-on experience.  Clinical education occurs during interaction with a Preceptor each week during assigned major and mini clinical experiences and during affiliate site experiences.  This allows athletic training students to practice and master the skills of the profession while providing safe and adequate health care for the patients (student-athletes under the direct supervision of a preceptor).


To ensure a consistent progression in education, a comprehensive list of psychomotor skills relating to the profession have been developed for each academic level.  Psychomotor skills directly relate to specific athletic training courses and levels of education.  What is being learned in the classroom and lab will be practiced in the clinical education and evaluated in the clinical courses and clinical experiences.


Clinical education occurs in a variety of settings:


  1. Laboratory - Almost all courses have an associated lab portion where athletic training students practice competencies under the supervision of a Preceptor. 
  2. Guest Lecturers - Various allied health professionals are invited to teach as guest lecturers in many of the Athletic Training major courses.   Guest lecturers include but are not limited to: ophthalmologists, orthopedic surgeons, gynecologists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists and other allied health professionals. 
  3. Athletic Training Clinical Courses - In these courses, athletic training students demonstrate mastery of psychomotor skills as they are evaluated for a grade on their performance of skills learned in class and practiced in their assigned lab time.  Clinical courses occur during the semester immediately after completion of the related three hour lecture class and lab to allow time for mastery of the skills.  To evaluate critical thinking skills, global evaluations are used within clinical courses while real-time evaluations are utilized during clinical experiences.  These two evaluation tools require that students incorporate skills acquired during previous coursework and help to measure decision making skills.
  4. Clinical Experiences -Clinical experience provides the athletic training student with the opportunity to apply the clinical skills they have acquired in prior coursework.  Athletic training students are assigned to an athletic trainer or other heath professional who will serve as their Preceptor, providing both supervision and practical educational experience on a daily basis.  Clinical experiences are broken down into three categories: major, mini and affiliate experiences. 

    A major clinical experience is a 12 or 16 weeks in length with an athletic team either on-campus or off-campus and is conducted under the direct supervision of an a Preceptor. One of the three major clinical experiences each ATS will have is an equipment intensive sport, either his/her junior or senior year.  Our goal is to provide each athletic training student a wide variety of experiences during their tenure at Gardner-Webb.  To help ensure this, each athletic training student will also be assigned three 4-week mini clinical experiences with various athletic teams on campus/off-campus.  Lastly, athletic training students will have three additional experiences at the following affiliate sites: high school, physical therapy, and a split orthopaedic general medicine experience.  The high school and physical therapy clinical experiences will encompass four weeks in duration with the orthopaedic and general medicine experiences encompassing two weeks each.  Each affiliate clinical experience is further detailed in the information provided below.
  5. High School Experience - Athletic training students also get an experience at a local high school (Crest High School and Burns High School) as part of their clinical education.  During this experience, athletic training students will observe Athletic Trainers/Preceptors as they provide health care to the High School age student-athlete.
  6. Physical Therapy Experience -Cleveland Physical Therapy AssociatesAs part of the clinical education, athletic training students will have a clinical experience through an area physical therapy clinic - Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates (CPTA). As a significant number of athletic trainers are currently employed in sports medicine/physical therapy settings, this clinical experience will provide an excellent way to familiarize themselves with this environment. Dr. Don Miller, PT, DPT, MS., CSCS, owner of CPTA and his staff give the athletic training student a thorough experience during the physical therapy experience. 
  7. Orthopaedic Experience - Dr. Patrick Hayes serves as Medical Director for the Undergraduate Athletic Training Program. Dr. Hayes of OrthoCarolina are responsible for educating the athletic training students inPhoto of Dr. Patrick Hayesthe clinic during the 2-week orthopaedic clinical experience.  All are excellent surgeons as well as educators that enjoy teaching the athletic training students.  The athletic training students have multiple opportunities to put on a mask and scrubs and observe a variety of surgeries.  There is no better way to learn the anatomy and understand rehabilitation than to see it on the inside.  Mr. Ryan Hollifield and Mr. Walt Rumfelt serve as Physician's Assistants to all three doctors and the athletic training students benefit from learning through their interaction with additional allied health professionals.   Athletic training students also get the opportunity to observe and interact with Dr. Louis Fiore, a physiatrist who specializes in the non-operative management of spinal and musculoskeletal conditions, including the use of diagnostic and therapeutic selective spinal injections and elect rodiagnostics.  To meet the rest of the providers and for more information, click here.

    101 Delta Park Drive Shelby, NC 28150
    (704)484-0606/ Fax: (704)484-8007

  8. General Medicine Experience - Dr. Larry Smith serves as Co-Medical Director and oversees the clinical expertise provided by Shelby Family Practice, in affiliation with Carolinas HealthCare System, allows the athletic training student to interact with a variety of healthcare professionals from family physicians and nurse practitioners to lab technicians and insurance coordinators. An athletic training student is generally Photo of Dr. Larry Smithassigned this clinical experience during his/her senior year during or after they have completed the Medical Conditions and Pharmacology course. Observing in this setting allows the athletic training student to see the full spectrum of the healthcare continuum from referrals by the athletic training staff in the athletic training room to diagnosis and treatment by the physicians and various staff at Shelby Family Practice’s two locations. To meet the rest of the providers and for more information, click here.

    1124 N. Washington Street Shelby NC 28152