Transition to Practice Series: Transitioning From Student to Athletic Trainer

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Stacy Walker, PhD, ATC

Ashley Thrasher, EdD, LAT, ATC, CSCS

Transition to practice – what is it?

Recently in athletic training there has been a great deal of attention given to transition to practice.  Our research into the transition to practice of new Athletic Trainers has been enlightening.  We want to discuss this topic and some of our findings in a series of articles.

The purpose of this series is to provide information about transition to practice to new Athletic Trainers and those who work with them. We hope our information will help  new employees and their employers.

We would like to begin by addressing the question: what is transition to practice?

Transition to practice is defined as:

“A process of convoluted passage in which people redefine their sense of self and develop self-agency in response to disruptive life events, not just the change but the process that people go through to incorporate the change or disruption in their life” (Kralick, et al.).

Simply put, this is a transition individuals go through when encountering a new environment and/or culture and must adapt while learning about themselves.  This transition can occur at any point in one’s life, whether it is graduating from college and accepting a first job or moving on to a different job.

New employees enter a different, unfamiliar workplace with new people and different policies and procedures.  For newly credentialed Athletic Trainers this transition is even more challenging because they are no longer students and must now make decisions on their own.  This transition is a normal process and happens at any level of education and/or experience.  Transition to practice is not new to the athletic training profession, nor are we alone in this experience.  Other healthcare professions also struggle with the transition.

Transition to practice is not based on preparedness.  Many will say students aren’t as prepared as they used to be.  Supervisors of newly credentialed Athletic Trainers will tell you they are very prepared as far as their medical knowledge (Thrasher, et al.).  Anecdotally, some say students today don’t seem to be transitioning as well as those in the past.  We don’t know if this is true or not, and it’s not the focus of this series.  We wanted to point out that preparedness does not equal transition to practice.

In closing, transition to practice is a process that takes anywhere from 6 months to 1 year.  During this time, the new employee adapts, evolves and changes who they are in this world.  For new Athletic Trainers, part of this is transitioning from student to independent healthcare provider. There are many feelings and experiences these new Athletic Trainers encounter. We will discuss more on this topic in our next article.



Kralick D, Visetin K, von Loon A. Transition: A literature review. J Adv Nurs. 2006;55(3):320-9.

 Thrasher AB, Walker SE, Hankemeier DA, Pitney WA. Supervising athletic trainers'' perceptions of professional socialization of graduate assistant athletic trainers in the collegiate setting. J Athl Train. 2015;50(3); 321–333.


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