Instructors Make the Difference
My first two clinical experiences could not have been more different. Fortunately or unfortunately, it made me realize that the quality of a student's clinical instructor can make a measurable difference in her experience. To an even greater extent, it's the clinical instructor's ability to recognize learning opportunities that makes the greatest difference.
Just so that you have some background, my first rotation was not a very positive educational experience. My CI was not a natural "teacher," and therefore did not challenge me to apply the information or skills that I was learning in class to even the most obvious and appropriate clinical situations. He didn't like manual therapy, either. On my midterm evaluation, he told me that I asked too many questions. I had been in school for three months and hadn't even covered the upper extremity yet. Of course I had a lot of questions.
Contrast that with my current experience where my CI has had a profound effect on the development of my clinical skills. Every day I'm there, she not only expects me to learn something, but also expects to teach me something (and doesn't tell me that I ask too many questions). Her instruction spans the continuum of clinical practice. When we have a patient with a unique medical history, she makes sure I understand the possible implications, and what else I'll need to find out. Any time someone comes in with an atypical presentation, she makes sure I work with that person to "get a feel" for things like hyperreflexia, clonus, excessive joint mobility etc. She seems genuinely interested in my learning, which is encouraging.
I'm thankful to have had both a positive and negative experience so that in the future, if I ever take on a student, I'll know what to do and what not to do. Most obviously, if someone is not willing to teach, he should not become a clinical instructor.