The Doctorate of Physical Therapy: Clinical and Academic Physical Therapists' Perception of Appropriate Curricular Changes

Article excerpt

Background and Purpose. The purposes of this study were (1) to examine what clinical and academic physical therapists (PTs) think should be added to physical therapist education curricula in order to produce autonomous professional (entry-level) physical therapist graduates, as physical therapist education programs make the transition from the entry-level Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree to the entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, (2) to identify the changes physical therapist educators are making to curricula in order to meet the goal of producing autonomous professional physical therapist graduates, as programs transition from the entry-level MFF degree to the entry-level DPT degree, and (3) to analyze similarities and discrepancies between what clinical and academic PTs think should be added to the curriculum and the actual changes educators are implementing in their curricula as programs make this transition.

Subjects. The subjects consisted of randomly selected physical therapists who were members of the American Physical Therapy Association (762), randomly selected academic PTs (318), and program directors of physical therapist education programs (194).

Methods. A written questionnaire was distributed to 1,284 physical therapists, with a 54% return rate. One hundred ninety-four surveys were sent to program directors, with a 50% return rate. Data were statistically analyzed using descriptive statistics, cross tabulations, and chi-square tests.

Results. Academic and clinical PTs indicated that all 12 curricular content areas should be added to the curricula as programs make the transition from the MPT degree to the DPT degree. However, significant differences in the level of agreement were found between academic and clinical PTs for the areas of reimbursement, legal issues, ethics, and managed care, with clinical PTs indicating stronger agreement. A majority of program directors indicated they were adding significantly fewer content areas than both academic and clinical PTs think should be added.

Discussion and Conclusion. The results of this study indicate that both academic PTs and clinical PTs thought all 12 curricular content areas should be added to the curricula as programs make this transition. However, the results showed that there were significant differences in the level of agreement between these groups regarding the addition of reimbursement, legal issues, ethics, and managed care content to curricula. In all cases, clinical PTs indicated stronger agreement for the addition of these curricular content areas. These results are not consistent with what program directors are reporting they are adding to the curricula as programs make this transition.

Key Words: Curriculum, Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, Clinical physical therapists, Academic physical therapists.

INTRODUCTION

During the last 2 decades, the knowledge explosion in health care has led several health care professions to expand their academic standards by requiring a professional clinical doctorate as the entry-level degree.1,2 In 1 989, an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) task force recommended that "the appropriate entry-level degree, based on the framework of practice and academic requirements, is the entry-level clinical doctorate."3 The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree prepares physical therapists for clinical practice, clinical scholarship, and a professional career.4

The APTA House of Delegates in 2000 endorsed the Vision Statement for Physical Therapy 2020, which states, "By 2020, physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy, recognized by consumers and other health care professionals as the practitioner of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, intervention for, and prevention of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities related to movement, function, and health. …