Teaching Professionalism: A Survey of Physical Therapy Educators

By Davis, D. Scott | Journal of Allied Health, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Teaching Professionalism: A Survey of Physical Therapy Educators


Davis, D. Scott, Journal of Allied Health


This study examined the opinions of physical therapy faculty relative to teaching and fostering professionalism in entry-level physical therapy education. A paper-and-pencil survey was mailed to a random sample of 318 physical therapy educators across the United States. Of the 318 surveys mailed, 166 participants (response rate, 52%) completed and returned the survey. Descriptive analysis revealed that 98% of the physical therapy educators view professionalism as an important component of a physical therapy curriculum. Eighty-nine percent of the respondents expressed concern about the professional behaviors of one or more of their entry-level students; however, based on the frequency of negative behaviors, these concerns appear to be isolated to a small percentage of the students. The most frequent negative behaviors observed among entry-level physical therapy students included tardiness and lack of personal responsibility. Respondents identified clinical reasoning, integrity, and honesty as the three most important professional skills for a physical therapist. The three most common teaching methods used to foster professionalism included generic abilities, small group discussion, and related reading assignments. Professional socialization is clearly a concern among physical therapy faculty for a few entry-level physical therapy students; however, based on the results of this investigation, it appears that most entrylevel physical therapy students are making a smooth transition to professional socialization. The information obtained from this investigation may be useful to allied health professionals and educators to help promote professionalism among entry-level students enrolled in professional programs. J Allied Health 2009; 38:74-80.

ALTHOUGH PROFESSIONALISM has been a long-standing tenet of many professions, recent literature has expressed the need for further development of teaching and assessment methods related to fostering professional socialization among entry-level professional students.1-26 Professional socialization has been defined as a process by which students develop the requisite skills, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs necessary for successful transition to professional status.27 Concern for professionalism has been expressed by many professions, including medicine,1-11 law,12 education,13 audiology,14 nursing,15-16 occupational therapy,17,18 and physical therapy.19"26 Despite the apparent interest in this topic cited in the literature, the attitudes and beliefs among entry-level physical therapy educators relative to fostering professional socialization are largely unknown. The purpose of this study was to examine issues related to teaching and fostering professionalism in entry-level physical therapy education from the perspective of physical therapy faculty.

Medicine has invested considerable time and resources in an effort to improve professionalism among medical students and residents. In 1999, the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American College of Physicians sponsored a collaborative program to raise the awareness of professionalism among the medical profession.4 The founders of the program established a charter to guide future research and teaching endeavors and to promote professionalism within medical education. The charter has been translated into 10 major languages and has been adopted by almost every medical association in the United States and Europe. This project spurred several publications within the medical community and challenged other professions to examine issues related to professionalism.1-11 One outcome of this initiative has been the adoption of six values that characterize medical professionalism: altruism, accountability, excellence, duty, honor/integrity, and respect of others.4

In a similar attempt to foster professionalism, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) commissioned a group of 18 physical therapists to develop a set of core professional values in a consensus-based conference. …

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Teaching Professionalism: A Survey of Physical Therapy Educators
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