Objectives. The transition from classroom to clinical practice challenges many health professional students. This study used a phenomenological approach to explore the lived experience of rehabilitation students during their final placement and first year of practice.
Method. Students (n = 6) in occupational therapy and physical therapy wrote reflective journals every 2 weeks during their final fieldwork placement and first year of practice. The researchers independently analyzed the journals for common themes. An independent peer completed a blind analysis of two journals. Data were also compared with published first-person accounts of novice practitioners.
Results. The lived experience of the first year of practice included four consecutive stages: Transition, Euphoria and Angst, Reality of Practice, and Adaptation. Themes from the journals included great expectations, competence, politics, shock, education, and strategies.
Conclusion. Recognizing the stages in the process of transition from student to therapist may assist in educational curriculum development and clinical support and supervision for new graduates. Educators need to continue to make education practice relevant while maintaining a theoretical perspective.