Senior White examines the role site plays on instruction during clinical rotations

by Chuck Gordon

Students majoring in athletic training do clinical rotations in three settings: in a high school, with college teams, and at a clinic. Senior Briasia White recalls her high-school rotation being something of a three-ring circus. “There was a lot going on all the time,” she says.

Thinking that perhaps the setting could have an impact on a clinical rotation’s effectiveness, White did a deep dive this summer into survey data collected previously by Dr. Brandy Clemmer, one of her professors.

The study was part of the Reeves Summer Research program at Wingate. Every year, a handful of student-professor teams do research thanks to a Reeves grant. White thought that, based on her own experiences, a good Reeves project would be to see whether other athletic-training students had similar thoughts about what role the site itself played in the level of instruction they received.

Briasia White carting a load of water bottles

At the high school where she did a rotation, White says, the sheer amount of responsibility placed on the shoulders of her on-site supervisor – or, in clinical parlance, “preceptor” – kept them from forming as instructive a relationship as possible. The preceptor seemed to be pulled in several directions at once.

“It was the middle of football season,” says White, who is in Wingate’s honors program. “You had football, cross country, soccer, volleyball – all of that all at once. I got a lot of experience taping hands and stuff, but it was hard for her to step back and say, ‘Hey, this is why we do this. This is why we do that.’”

White spent part of this past summer mining the data Clemmer and a colleague had collected last year while conducting the Leadership in Clinical Education Survey, which was sent out to athletic trainers around the country who had gained their board certification between 2016 and 2018. White was looking for those trainers’ assessment of the level of engagement shown by their preceptors, how much they listened and how invested they were in their students.

What White found surprised her. Based on her analysis of the 190 survey responses, the clinical setting was pretty much irrelevant. It was the commitment of the preceptor that mattered the most.

It was a good lesson for someone who plans to go on to graduate school after Commencement in May: You have to follow the data, no matter where it leads.

“Briasia is phenomenal,” Clemmer says. “She grew so much as a researcher. She’s academically a highflier. Sometimes being superstructured and wanting an answer goes along with that. But understanding that this is a process, in the literature and the data, will lead you to what you’re looking for.

“I said, ‘You’re in charge of the methodology. Go!’ And she cranked it out.”

It helps that White, as a supplemental-instruction leader in statistics, knows her way around a spreadsheet. “It was nice to be able to apply the statistics that I’ve learned to more than just a couple of math problems,” she says.

‘Passionate go-getter’

White became interested in athletic training after being injured as a sophomore volleyball player at Kings Mountain High School. She went to an Urgent Care and was told she was OK to go back to practice the next day. But the KMHS athletic trainer wanted to be sure, and after a battery of tests he determined that White had suffered a concussion.

“It showed me the importance of having the athletic trainer there,” White says. “I knew he was around, but since I hadn’t been injured I paid him no mind. But after I got a concussion I was like, ‘OK, this is real. This professional is actually very helpful to me.’”

By her junior year, White had stopped playing sports at the high-school level and instead was concentrating on looking after athletes as a student trainer. She has since become passionate about athletic training, and she plans to continue her education by getting a master’s in kinesiology before eventually both working as an athletic trainer at a college and teaching.

“She’s super-bright,” Clemmer says. “She’s a go-getter. She wants there to be a change in the clinical setting. She’s passionate about it.”

But first, she and Clemmer will present their research findings (virtually) early next month at the annual convention of the North Carolina Association of Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (also known as NC SHAPE). White jokes that she’s a little nervous about the hour-long slot they’ve been allotted.

“It’s a bunch of doctors and people who have been researching for years, and I’m just a student,” she says.

Getting to this point, though, justifies the hours she spent crunching numbers this summer.

“This is something that is going to follow me forever,” she says. “This is a bigger deal than I initially realized. Dr. Clemmer always talks about being excited that I could be published before I graduate. That’s a huge accomplishment to have in college on top of all the work that I’ve done. That’s something I’m proud of.”

Oct. 23, 2020