This issue begins with the keynote address, by Ellen Spake, that was presented during the Section on Pediatrics Education Summit held in July of 2012.1 As Spake notes in her address, the effort to promote and improve pediatric curricular content in our professional physical therapist educational programs has a long history, and I would suggest it is motivated by the desire to assure that children receive the very best physical therapy we can offer. Recently Schreiber and colleagues2 reported the exposure physical therapist students receive to pediatric content during their professional education program is quite variable, despite the fact that the Section on Pediatrics has been addressing this issue over time.
Sometimes we “overshot” the target, by suggesting an array of content that would require extensive curricular revisions within our professional education programs. We now seem to be doing better in that regard, and I commend the group that worked to reach consensus on the 5 essential competencies that are reported in this issue by Rapport et al.3 During the Summit, the group was able to boil down to a essential set of competencies that suggest our mindfulness of the shower of requests for curricular change that emanate from outside the physical therapy faculty.
I always think that it is good to remember that curriculum is the property of faculty and to promote curricular change we need to work from within the faculty. To promote curricular change, we need well-prepared pediatric physical therapist faculty in each of our educational programs that have the ability to collaborate with their colleagues to promote the content that prepares physical therapist students to treat children. But we also need to remember that Schreiber et al2 reported a significant number of current faculty teaching pediatrics will be retiring in the near future. We need to help maintain a steady stream of well-prepared faculty in pediatrics. This can be done through encouraging those entering our profession to think about an academic career. Everyone can take part in this endeavor. When you recognize a colleague with strong content expertise and a specific talent for teaching, encourage that individual to consider teaching as a viable career option.
We cannot forget that internships are an integral and powerful part of the curriculum. I find it inconceivable that we continue to graduate individuals who have not been required to treat a child prior to completing internships. I am not suggesting that every student should complete a pediatric internship (although this is still my dream), for as we know children are seen in many clinical settings. But we can make additional progress in preparing graduates for general practice. To do that, in addition to well-prepared faculty to teach pediatric content, we need the commitment of others to assure that each professional student gets the opportunity to work with children during their internships. We need to work with professional education program directors to assure they understand the importance of preparing their graduates to treat individuals of all ages; we need academic coordinators of clinical education who take responsibility to assure that each student receives opportunities to work with children; and we need experienced clinicians to train students to work with children.
The responsibility for providing excellent care to children lies in our hands, and to achieve our goals, we need to think beyond the academic curricular content and look at the myriad ways we can move this agenda forward.
Ann F. Van Sant, PT, PhD, FAPTA
1. Spake E. Perspectives on pediatric physical therapy education. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2014; 26(1):2–6.
2. Schreiber J, Goodgold S, Moerchen VA, Remec N, Aaron C, Kreger A. A description of professional pediatric physical therapy education. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2011; 23(2):201–204.
3. Rapport MJ, Furze J, Martin K, Schreiber J, Dannemiller L, DiBiasio P, Moerchen V. Essential Competencies in Entry-Level Pediatric Physical Therapy Education. Pediatr Phys Ther. 2014; 26(1):7–18.