Is There a Relationship between Performance during Physical Therapist Clinical Education and Scores on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)?

Article excerpt

Background and Purpose. The determination of whether a student physical therapist (PT) has reached entry-level status for graduation purposes is partially determined by the physical therapist education program's evaluation tool used for rating student performance in the clinical setting. The determination of whether a graduate can practice physical therapy depends on graduate performance on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Clinical performance as assessed by the clinical evaluation tool used by members of the Texas Consortium for Physical Therapy Clinical Education (Consortium), the Physical Therapist Manual for the Assessment of Clinical Skills (PT MACS), has not been evaluated with regard to the NPTE. Therefore, the purposes of this study were to assess the following: (1) the relationship between PT MACS section scores on the first and final clinical experiences with section scores on the NPTE among first-time test takers, (2) the relationship between PT MACS aggregate scores on the first and final experiences with the overall score on the NPTE among first-time test takers, and (3) the relationship of final PT grade point averages (GPAs) with NPTE scores among first time test takers.

Subjects/Methods. This retrospective study used archived academic, clinical, and NPTE performance data collected by the directors of Clinical Education of 8 Texas PT professional education programs for classes graduating between 2004 and 2007. The total number of graduates was 985. Data were analyzed for relationships using Pearson product moment correlation coefficients.

Results. Small, but significant, relationships were found between 2 PT MACS sections and corresponding sections on the NPTE (P < .01). A small correlation was identified between the PT MACS visual analog scale (VAS) ratings and the NPTE score (P < .001). Despite these associations, PT GPA still had the largest correlation with NPTE scores (P < .001). Further investigation indicated high interitem correlation in the PT MACS sections used in the correlation with NPTE sections, indicating good reliability of the PT MACS skills. Cronbach alpha scores ranged from .63 to .86.

Discussion and Conclusion. Although-several small, significant relationships were found between the PT MACS sections and corresponding NPTE sections, PT GPA demonstrated the greatest relationship with success on the NPTE, reinforcing the findings of previous studies. Based on results of the inter-item analysis, the PT MACS demonstrated good internal consistency reliability. Results of this study suggest that an assessment tool that tests all domains of learning cannot predict performance on a cognitive instrument such as the NPTE.

Key Words: Physical therapy, Clinical education, Licensure examination.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE

Today's health care system requires that newly graduated physical therapists (PTs) enter the workforce prepared to meet the demands of total patient management. Graduates are expected to perform at a level that meets the standards of safe, effective, and efficient practice. The educational preparation of these graduates includes completion of both intense schedules of didactic classroom experience and complex clinical experiences. The combination of didactic preparation and clinical competence in entry-level skills must be assessed in order to determine the eligibility of a student to graduate from the PT education program. Clinical competence is assessed using evaluative tools specific to clinical skills that define entry-level standards. One such evaluative tool is the Physical Therapist Manual for the Assessment of Clinical Skills (PT MACS),1 developed by the Texas Consortium for Physical Therapy Clinical Education.

Successful completion of an accredited professional physical therapist education program allows the graduate to apply for and take the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE). Entry-level competence is assessed using multiple-choice items that have been constructed based on a formal survey of physical therapists describing their current job activities and responsibilities. …