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Abstract

Transition to clinical practice is an important topic in athletic training, as it can be a period of time that presents challenges for the athletic trainer. Most of the research pertaining to transition to practice focuses on the skills and knowledge necessary for clinical practice, yet we know that stress can manifest from not only being an independent practitioner but also from learning how to balance one’s roles. We wanted to understand the perspective of today’s novice athletic trainers and how they feel in their first full-time position, specifically relating to their professional development and establishment or maintenance of work-life balance (WLB). Using a qualitative paradigm, we phone interviewed athletic trainers who were categorized as career starters by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association. Using a purposive recruitment strategy we were able to recruit 20 (12 female, 8 male) athletic trainers meeting this classification. General inductive analyses were used to code the data from our interviews, and we satisfied credibility though saturation of the data, peer review, and researcher triangulations during the coding process. Our findings suggest that while confidence in clinical skills is apparent, some of the more administrative aspects of clinical practice present challenges. We found that various employment settings offered various expectations or challenges that had the potential to impact WLB. A blend of professional and organizational processes helped transition the athletic trainer, and although both were helpful each also could be bolstered to improve transitioning for the newly credentialed athletic trainer. Employers of early career starters should be aware of the stress related to transition to practice, and the time it can take to acclimate.