Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

An Observational Study Exploring Academic Mentorship in Physical Therapy

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

An Observational Study Exploring Academic Mentorship in Physical Therapy

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: Health professions faculty members often come to the academy without formal training as a professor. A challenge that exists for many new professors is the expectation that they will effectively balance their tripartite roles, which include ensuring teaching excellence, research rigor, and service to the university community. Mentoring has been suggested to be a way that new faculty can be supported as they seek to meet these expectations. Currently, there is limited information on faculty mentoring for physical therapy (PT) faculty. OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to discover if and to what extent mentoring is occurring in entry-level PT education for new full-time PT faculty. DESIGN: Exploratory, cross-sectional survey research design. METHODS: Using the Health Sciences Faculty Mentoring Survey, the authors gathered descriptive data regarding faculty mentoring across entry-level PT education. RESULTS: Of the 66 respondents in this study, only 15 faculty members (22.7%) reported having a faculty mentor, with only 10 of these receiving mentorship from within their own PT department. While the sample size was small, the data provide specific information on current mentorship practices in the PT academic community. CONCLUSION: The findings indicate that the presence of academic mentorship in PT is limited. In light of this finding, the authors sought to provide insight on PT faculty perceptions regarding mentorship in the academy and discuss possible frameworks that can be used to develop and support the tripartite roles of novice faculty as they transition into the academy. J Allied Health 2015; 44(2):96-100.

AS THE DEMAND for physical therapists in healthcare continues to grow, and enrollments in physical therapy (PT) programs continue to expand, so does the need for qualified faculty.1-3 Consistent with study findings of other faculty surrounding formal mentoring practices, many PT faculty members have not received formal training for the role of a professor, as they frequently come to academia after 5 or more years of clinical work.4-7 Clinicians entering the academy as novice faculty members face several challenges, including the need to explore diverse teaching strategies to prepare students for competent contemporary practice, develop significant personal scholarship, and engage in the unique culture of the academy. Within entry-level PT education, faculty are additionally required to present a specialized area of practice which supports the diverse content needed to develop students into autonomous PTs. As a result, faculty in many entry-level PT education programs may not have the mentorship available to them within their area of specialization. Also impacting mentorship in the academic environment is the fact that PT faculty often possess different terminal degrees including but not limited to a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), transitional DPT (tDPT), PhD, EdD, ScD, and MBA. Regardless of their area of specialization or terminal degree, new faculty members must understand the explicit and implicit expectations of tenure and promotion and learn to navigate the specific culture of their institution to achieve academic success.8-10 Often challenges exist for new professors when seeking to effectively balance their tripartite roles of teaching, research, and service in the academy.8,11,12

Literature suggests that effective mentoring of new faculty can aide in guiding, supporting, and understanding the expectations of their academic responsibilities. Through this mentorship, faculty can become socialized into the academy.13,14 As Dewey in 1938 stated, "Just as education is a powerful force that continually shapes the quality of experience, so too is mentoring." Yet, mentorship in the academy lacks personalization, is often misunderstood, and thus frequently left to chance encounters.15 Currently, there is limited information on faculty mentoring practices for novice and experienced PT faculty. …

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